There comes a time in most people’s life that driving for themselves is no longer safe. For most, this will be a very sensitive time in their lives, and tender egos may cloud their better judgment.
If you are having concerns about an older relative or friend’s ability to drive, you should discuss it with them promptly. Avoiding the subject could, unfortunately, be a matter of life and death. It’s painful and awkward to tell an older adult that they are no longer able to drive, and for them, it may be a bit humiliating. As difficult as the conversation is, if you truly believe they are a danger behind the wheel, you need to have the conversation sooner rather than later. Later may be too late.
Don’t Wait for Their Driving to Become a Problem
When confronted with changes in their driving abilities, their initial response will often be denial and anger. Later they will probably become sad, and maybe even a little depressed as they realize that their personal freedoms are slipping away. It’s not uncommon for the topic to come up after an accident or frightening near miss, making it an even more emotional conversation. Plan ahead of time and have a series of conversations with your parents or older relatives about driver safety and how they can plan to adapt their driving habits if it becomes necessary long before their driving becomes a problem- maybe years before. This will help ease your burden when the time to have the discussion arrives by being able to remind them of your previous discussions.
When It’s Time for The Talk
Geriatric expert David Solie states in his book, How to Say It to Seniors, that “because elderly people face so many losses at this stage of life, they tend to rigidly control the few things they can. This struggle for control will almost certainly come into play where driving is concerned because giving up the car keys could affect where they live, who they see, and what interests and activities they can pursue. To you, this decision is a simple matter of good sense and safety; for them, it represents the end of life as they’ve always known it.” Take time to plan your approach ahead of time, and remain sensitive to their feelings.
Introducing the Subject
Try to avoid coming on too strong so that you don’t set the conversation off on the wrong foot. If you’ve noticed their driving capabilities slipping, then they probably have too. Try and get them to express their own concerns. Start the conversation with a question. For example, if they had received a ticket or been in an accident, ask about it. Then follow up with other questions like, “How are you doing with your driving? Are you finding it a little more difficult than it used to be?”
Use Reflective Listening
Hearing that they may need to stop driving is difficult. You will be met with objections. Usually, they will start pointing out all of the reasons that they can’t stop driving. How will they get to their weekly golf game? How will they get to their appointments or the grocery store? They gloss over the questions about their driving ability by making a case for all the reasons they can’t stop. This is important to recognize. They know they are struggling to drive safely, but they just can’t imagine how they can get by without a car.
Elizabeth Dugan, a geriatric researcher who wrote the book The Driving Dilemma, suggests you help them express their fears by using “reflective listening.” Reflective listening essentially means rephrasing what the person has said and conveys support and encouragement. It helps the speaker gain insight about his experience. Instead of immediately jumping in with promises (I’m sure Sue will take you to golf), or reassurances (It will all work out fine), use reflective listening to direct the conversation. You can say something along the lines of, “I know you are worried that you will have to give up some of your usual activities when you give up driving.” This kind of response encourages them to continue the discussion and continue to reflect on their worries, instead of shutting it down.
Make the Time for a Long Discussion
Don’t rush the conversation. Take the time to truly listen to all their concerns and feelings. Don’t be surprised if they become nostalgic and begin talking about the past. They may reflect on road trips, buying their first car, or teaching their kids to drive. Let them talk.
Encourage the Reminiscences
Resist your urge to interrupt them and get them back on track. Instead, ask them questions, ask to see photos. Reminiscing helps people sift through their emotions and come to terms with current circumstances.
Ask Them Directly What They Think They Should Do
As the discussion progresses, ask them what they feel they should do about driving. Maybe encourage them to write out a list of pros and cons of the alternatives they face. Sometimes this helps them realize that there are some benefits to giving up their key (saving money on gas, auto insurance, and car maintenance). It will also bring focus to the consequences of continuing to drive, such as fatal accidents.
This may be a good time to put the conversation on hold. Suggest meeting again in a couple of days, after you have all had the chance to reflect on the options.
6 Ways to Help Someone Stop Driving
Your continued support and involvement in their lives will make giving up the car a far less lonely and frightening prospect. These tips from Caring.com will help you ease their fears and transition smoothly into their new lifestyle.
- Make it a habit to check in on them often, just to chat or share some news.
- Offer to drive them to the activities they enjoy — or help find someone else who can take them.
- See that they’re included in family outings, like their grandchildren’s school events or a day at the beach.
- Encourage them to try taking the bus on their next trip to the pharmacy, or to walk, if it isn’t too far away, and offer to go with them if you can.
- Urge them to ask for rides from friends, and to reciprocate in whatever way they can (preparing a meal, for example).
- Help them develop new routines and interests that don’t require driving, like gardening, walking, or swimming at the local pool.
Virginia Auto Service loves to help you with your vehicle and safety in any way we can, we hope you find these tips helpful and make the conversation with your loved one a little easier. For high-quality auto repair services, give the experts at Virginia Auto Service a try. Call (602) 266-0200 or schedule an appointment online.