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Putting the Brakes on Elderly Driving: A Guide to Keeping Your Loved One Safe

As a family caregiver, you recognize the importance of keeping your loved one safe. You spend a lot of time focused on ensuring their well-being. One of the most personal, yet important elements of that safety is driving.

There may come a time when you need to address the issue of your family member's ability to drive safely. Recognizing the signs and knowing when it's time to intervene can be challenging, and addressing it, even more so. In this article, we’ll offer tips to help you identify the signs, understand when it's necessary to stop your loved one from driving, and how to approach this delicate situation with care.

Recognizing the Signs that it’s Time to Give Up Driving

Observing your loved one's driving habits and overall behavior can help you spot issues early. Look out for the following signs when deciding if their behavior make it unsafe for them to continue driving:

  • Frequent close calls or near-accidents

  • Increased dents or scratches on their vehicle

  • Difficulty reading signs or following directions

  • Slower reaction times or poor judgment on the road

  • Increased anxiety or nervousness while driving

  • Physical limitations, such as limited range of motion or impaired vision

  • Medications that may affect cognitive abilities or reaction times

How to Decide When It's Time

So you’ve noticed a few signs and have decided to dig deeper. The next step is to decide when it's actually time to stop your loved one from driving. While it can be challenging to take away their independence, (and many of them will fight you on it), just remember that their safety and the safety of others on the road is the most important thing.

Consider the following factors:

  • Professional assessments. One of the best ways to figure it out is to consult a healthcare professional, such as their primary care physician or a geriatric specialist, who can evaluate their driving abilities objectively.

  • Driving incidents. If your elderly loved one has been involved in recent fender benders, accidents or near-misses, it may be an indication that their driving skills have declined.

  • Family input. Discuss your concerns with other family members or close friends who may have noticed the same signs. This can help you make sure you’re on target with your assessment and allow you to make a more collective decision.

  • Legal requirements. Familiarize yourself with local laws regarding elderly drivers. Some states or local jurisdictions have specific regulations or renewal processes for older individuals that may help you push the change.

Approaching the Situation with Care

Addressing the topic of giving up driving can be emotionally charged for both you and your loved one. When approaching the topic, your perspective is important, but it’s also important to think of theirs. This choice in a lot of areas (especially rural communities) removes a level of independence and freedom. That can be incredibly scary for your loved one to come to terms with, so they may feel defensive or angry at the topic.

Here are some tips to approach the situation with a sensitive touch:

  • Choose the right time and place. Find a calm and private setting where you can have an open and honest conversation without distractions.

  • Express concerns and observations. Clearly communicate your concerns about their safety, as well as the safety of others on the road. Share specific incidents or signs that have raised concerns.

  • Emphasize your perspective and fear for their well-being. Reinforce that your intention is simply to prioritize their safety, and offer alternative transportation options available to help them maintain their independence (more on this next).

  • Offer support. Be ready to provide assistance with finding transportation alternatives, such as offering rides, help with arranging rideshares, helping them learn public transportation, or connecting with community organizations that offer transportation services for seniors.

  • Involve professionals. It can be helpful to involve a healthcare professional or driving rehabilitation specialist who can provide an objective perspective to the recommendation.

Closing Thoughts

Addressing the issue of stopping an elderly family member from driving is a challenging task for anyone. Remember to emphasize your concern for their safety and well-being, provide support during the transition, and explore alternative transportation options that can help maintain their independence while keeping them safe on the road.

To get more information about the resources we have available to you as an Orange County, California caregiver, contact us at the California Caregiver Resource Center of Orange County.

Further Reading: 4 Fantastic Books for Caregivers: Our Reading Recommendations

Anyone who has spent any amount of time caring for an elderly relative or friend knows that it can be both a challenging and rewarding experience. Caring for an elderly or ailing loved one can often be a 24/7 job, and it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself. One way to make sure that you are staying healthy both mentally and physically is to make time for reading.


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