Talking To Seniors About Taking The Keys Away

Julia Little  |  March 1, 2012

A recent study by automotive safety firm TRIP found that senior traffic fatalities are on the rise, and many caregivers may be wondering how to broach the topic of driving with their loved ones. While many seniors value their independence, road safety should come first, and it may be necessary for a caregiver to step in and take the keys away.

This can be a difficult discussion to have, but there are some ways that caregivers and family members can communicate their feelings in a non-confrontational manner. A recent study by the University of California, San Francisco, found that seniors rate dignity and a sense of control as the keys to an enhanced quality of life as they age. The issue is not just about a car, but it's often a senior holding onto something they feel they have control over. Having a car represents freedom, and it can be tough for aging adults to let go of that.

Many seniors will claim that they are fine out on the road. It might be a good idea to go for a ride along with the senior and see if this is the case. Try not to point out or criticize while the person is driving, but make mental notes of any mistakes or close calls to bring up later.

Compromises are also a good way to reach an amenable agreement. For example, many seniors will agree to only drive during the day and avoid bad weather. For relatively healthy seniors, this can cut down on the risk of driving while still allowing the senior to maintain their independence.

It's also a good idea for caregivers to discuss the issue with the senior's physician. Be sure to ask about any medications that could have a negative impact on driving. You may want to get a vision test and ensure that the senior is physically able to handle a vehicle. Some doctors may be willing to recommend that the senior stop driving directly, which can help ease the burden on a caregiver.

One reason that drivers may be hesitant to give up their keys is because they think they need the car to run important errands. If that's the case, it may be time to also begin thinking about a senior care community. Independent living may be able to offer seniors everything they need on the premises, and can also provide transportation to and from places like the grocery store or bank.