Is Driving Still Safe for Your Senior Loved One?
Your parent or another dear one is getting older but still independent. Yet, you’re concerned they’re not as skilled behind the wheel as they used to be. If you have concerns about an older adult's ability to drive, addressing them promptly could literally be a matter of life and death. It’s tempting to procrastinate having “the talk” by putting it off to next week or before the next storm; yet, think how you'd feel if something bad happened.
Considering the potential consequences can help overcome your hesitation (but it doesn't make doing it easier). Sometimes it’s a health issue that can be corrected with an appointment with their doctor or optometrist. It Is rather painful to have to tell our elders they aren't as capable as they used to be. For them, it's often a reminder of their growing dependency on others as they age and, perhaps, their inability to take care of themselves and manage their daily life as they always had. As difficult as it is, if you have reason to believe that your elder person could be a danger behind the wheel, it's important to deal with the issue sooner rather than later…since later could be too late.
You can check out their recent driving record…have they been stopped (and why)? Is it a more common occurrence than before? Have they avoided an accident that got their attention lately? Do they ask where the store is or need more directions? Do they avoid going out when they used to be more involved? All are signs to watch.
A good plan is to grab a bite of lunch or breakfast with them and let them drive. This helps you assess their abilities and gives you some special time together. They don’t have to know you’re noting their reaction times, how confident they are behind the wheel, if they’re driving at a slower pace (often a revealing sign), ease of turning, if they can park between the lines, if they notice their surroundings, etc. Driving slower is a sign for many because of less confidence or “everyone seems to be going so fast these days!” This can be a great tradition to start even before they’re needing it. It also lets you ease into the conversation as you spend time checking in with each other. They might even tell you about a friend who’s experiencing difficulties….
What are some other strategies?
Think about how you would want someone to address the issue with you. Think about the person with whom you’re dealing. For our more stubborn or seriously less capable dear ones, you might need to put it on the table and be upfront. Depending upon the person, also, you might have to be sneaky. If dementia is setting in, it’s a terrible thing to feel lost; perhaps appeal to that feeling if it’s already happened. Whatever way you feel best for your person, always, speak in kindness and love, perhaps pointing out the issues they had years ago with their older relative.
It’s tough to force someone to stop driving. You could get doctors and DMVs involved, both can help you have the talk (and take action). Here are some other ways people have dealt with addressing the issue:
1. Have a relative or close friend “borrow” the car.
2. Report them to the DMV, can be anonymously.
3. If it applies, use dementia forgetfulness to your advantage…hide or lose their car keys (keep your own keys tucked away too, if they’re in the same household).
4. Take the car for repairs.
5. Disable the car.
6. Sell the car.
As a practical matter, it’s a good time to review their car insurance coverage. With a greater potential of loss it’s not the best time to be carrying minimum limits, especially if they own their home or other assets. Talk to your agent.
If you don’t have an agent, we, Solo Insurance® are happy to help answer your questions or give you a quote.
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