Maybe it was a recent accident or a close call on the road. Maybe you’ve seen damage to their car or you’re noticing their response time is slowing down. These are just a few of the signs that it’s time to approach Mom and Dad about giving up driving. Since driving is linked to our independence, the thought of giving up that freedom can be extremely difficult for seniors, and understandably so. To help you navigate the conversation with sensitivity and understanding, here are seven tips for how to talk to your aging parents about not driving.
Consider Who Should Start the Conversation
Even if an observation is fair and accurate, sometimes what really matters is who delivers the message. Take time to consider who is best suited to starting the conversation about driving with your aging parents. Whether it’s an adult child with whom they feel open and comfortable, their own partner or spouse, or even a doctor – make sure it’s someone they listen to and trust.
Plan the Time & Place
If you’ve got questions for Mom and Dad they might not want to hear, consider when they would be least defensive and more open to a conversation. Choose a time when you can have a private talk in a relaxed setting. That sets you both up for success.
Remember that you’re opening up a conversation – not a lecture – and taking the time to listen to your parents’ thoughts, concerns, and ideas is important. Listening shows you care about their perspective and their will in the situation. Asking questions can also help older drivers with self-realization about their capabilities. How are they feeling? Are they noticing changes in their physical ability? Do they have anxiety when they’re behind the wheel? Hearing your parents’ perspective can help you plan next steps together.
When you’re opening up a potentially sensitive topic like driving, try explaining the reason for your concern using real examples, to give the conversation purpose and direction. Speak from your perspective and avoid making assumptions. Of course, this means taking the time to ride in the car with Mom and Dad and observe their driving for yourself. When you’re chatting with them, focus on the facts related to their driving history and any medical conditions that might make driving especially difficult. Sharing real problems you see rather than speaking in generalities can help to keep the conversation on track.
Empathize & Encourage
Sit on the same side of the table with your parents – literally and figuratively. Make sure it’s clear your concern is for their safety. After all, older drivers are simply more vulnerable in car accidents. When your parents understand you’re on their side, you can face down the problem together and come to the best solution. Empathizing also means considering other drivers on the road and showing concern for their safety. Making sure Mom and Dad are safe when they’re driving is about protecting others, too.
Come Ready With Solutions
“If I don’t have a car, how will I…?” Likely one of your parents’ first objections to the idea of giving up driving will be to list practical concerns about day-to-day living. Come prepared, so this natural response won’t derail a positive conversation. Bring some thoughts on how your parents can still live the life they want to live and how you can help. Maybe it just means adjusting their schedule to avoid nighttime driving. If they really shouldn’t be driving at all, you might look into senior transportation options or grocery and food delivery services, or consider creating a driving schedule with the help of their loved ones. If you’re considering senior living, look for places like our Ebenezer communities that offer onsite amenities and scheduled shopping trips. Doing your homework ahead of time will help you make more progress when you’re together.
Continue the Conversation
We can’t expect a big topic like giving up driving to be settled after one chat. Instead, the goal should be to get it out in the open, removing the taboo, so you can continue to address the problem together. Depending on your relationship with your parents, it might be a good idea to introduce the topic proactively, asking “what if” questions before their safety is an immediate concern. However you choose to approach it, understand that it’s not a one-and-done issue.
For more helpful articles on navigating tough topics, plus tips on nutrition, exercise, and finances, visit our Ebenezer blog.