How to Take Car Keys Away From an Elderly Parent Kindly

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Elderly person driving a car

Aging parents and driving is a very sensitive topic but could become a necessary conversation at a certain point in your parent’s life. 

Are you an adult child that needs to have a conversation with your parents about their driving? 

Do you know how to take car keys away from an elderly parent in a positive way?

One of the most challenging conversations adult children have with elderly parents is when mom or dad needs to stop driving. It can bring up emotions on both sides and cause significant tensions, but there are ways to do it well.

Are you ready to gain greater confidence when talking with your aging parents about driving?

Let’s discuss how to take car keys away from an elderly parent in a loving way.

Do My Parents Need to Stop Driving? 3 Tips to Find Out

Before having a conversation with your parents about driving, you’ll want to decide if this conversation is necessary. Age itself isn’t necessarily the reason for taking the car away from an elderly parent. 

Here are some ways to get more information about your parent’s driving ability.

1. Ride as a Passenger When Your Elderly Parent Runs Errands

The best way to understand your parents’ current driving habits is to ride with them. Playing passenger with your parents will give you first-hand experience of their aptitude to drive.

As you ride, observe and take a mental note of different habits:

  • Are they confident? Or do they seem anxious?
  • Do they swerve into other lanes?
  • Do they obey all the traffic signs?
  • Are they consistently driving too fast or too slow?
  • Are they aware of their surroundings and able to easily navigate the route?
  • Are there frequent moments of nearly getting into an accident?

If they seem to display a lack of confidence or make easy mistakes repeatedly, you may need to prepare yourself for a conversation with them.

2. Talk with Your Parents’ Medical Provider

Medical professionals, like your parent’s physician or eye doctor, can also help you understand your parent’s driving condition.

New medications or health changes can signal that taking the car away from an elderly parent is necessary. Talk with your parent’s physician to help you understand if they are well enough to drive alone safely.

Do you suspect your parent has poor eyesight? Is there vision suddenly declining? Consider scheduling an appointment with an eye doctor to evaluate their eye health. States may differ on the eyesight requirements for an unrestricted license, but every state does have regulations. 

3. Listen to Your Parents’ Comments About Driving

Listening to your parents can go a long way in opening the door to further conversations. 

Parents may mention difficult or uncomfortable driving situations, such as:

  • “I just don’t like driving in the dark anymore.” 
  • “It’s so busy at [a certain time or place] that it’s hard for me to drive.”
  • “I get so tired when I drive these days.”

Listen for comments like the ones listed above and how often your parent mentions them.

Now, let’s cautiously approach the topic of how to take the car keys away from your elderly parent.

How to Tell an Elderly Person to Stop Driving

“How do you stop an elderly person from driving?” Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this FAQ.

Driving is something most aging parents have done nearly their entire life. Driving provides them with independence, helps them run errands, and gets them to and from social gatherings. Being able to drive is a significant part of their life.

If you conclude that your aging parent needs to limit their driving or stop driving altogether, it likely won’t be a simple conversation. 

Here are some ways to caringly approach the topic of driving and help your parents see their need for alternative transportation.

Start Small Conversations About Driving Early and Often

You’ll want to lay some groundwork by starting the driving conversation early and having small discussions around your concerns. Using the listening and ride-along techniques we mentioned earlier can be helpful. 

After riding with your parent, gently bring up a small mistake you noticed and ask if they realize they made one. Don’t criticize them; instead, let them know you care about their safety. Don’t let it turn into an argument, either. If they don’t remember the mistake you referenced, move on, but take note of their short-term memory.

If your parent comments on their driving ability, validate their feelings and offer constructive feedback. Suppose your parent mentions they don’t like driving at night. You can say, “It does get dark pretty early in the winter. How about you drive only during the day instead? If you need a ride at night, you can let me know, and I’ll drive you.” 

Avoid harsh criticisms or threatening to take the car from your parents as your primary way of communicating the issue. Have small conversations, be patient, and be part of the solution.

Have Your Parents Talk to Someone They Trust

If you don’t feel comfortable starting the conversation, ask someone your parents trust to start the driving discussion. This person could be a spouse, sibling, child, or close friend.

  • Who do your parents trust the most?
  • Who can effectively communicate the desired message?
  • Who has firsthand knowledge of your parent’s driving limitations?

Talking with a trusted family member or friend will make your parents feel safe. Create a space where your parents will be more willing to share their feelings openly and receptive to feedback about their driving skills.

Provide Hard Evidence

Even after starting the conversation early, having small talks, and having them speak with a trusted friend, your parents may still not agree that their driving needs to be modified. 

It’s often valuable to meet your parents with hard evidence about their driving, which could be dangerous for them and others on the road. 

Hard evidence can be what you observed when you rode with them, a recent change in physical condition, or a new medical prescription from a doctor that inhibits driving. 

Make sure that you elevate your concern for your parent’s safety as you share hard evidence. Help them see that you want to keep them and others safe behind the wheel. 

Share Other Transportation Options

A significant reason your parents won’t want to give up driving is the fear of being stuck at home or dependent on others. Taking away their license or car can remove your parent’s sense of independence. Reassure your parents that alternative transportation options are available.

Here are some transportation alternatives you can share with your parents:

  • Family members or friends: Suggest they ask family members or friends for a ride, but be aware that this option has pros and cons. It does provide aging parents with a means of transportation, but parents may feel like they’re a burden. You or other family members may want to help your parent, but being their regular driver can lead to burnout. Be sure to establish boundaries with this option.
  • Public transportation: Public transportation (if available) is another good alternative. Public transport is an excellent way for parents to stay active, social, and reach public places. However, it may be something that induces anxiety or makes them uncomfortable. It also requires that your parent be mobile, so it’s not a good option if your parent has limited mobility or severe health issues.
  • Hire an in-home caregiver: A convenient and safe alternative is to hire an in-home caregiver for your parent. Among the many benefits to home care for the elderly, a caregiver can safely drive your parent around. A caregiver allows you to stay involved in your parents’ lives while still helping your parents when you’re unavailable.

Sharing alternative driving options with your parents is a good way for them to see that they can still get around without driving themselves.

Assertive Methods (Your Last Resort)

If you try to approach the subject kindly, but your parent still doesn’t comply or understand that they need to stop driving, you may need to take more serious measures. 

Here some things you can do when talking directly with your parents doesn’t work:

  • Anonymously report them as an unsafe driver to the DMV.
  • Set up an appointment with their primary care physician to discuss the risks of continuing to drive given their condition(s).
  • Remove the car from their place of residence or hide the keys.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to talk and reason with your parents. But if all else fails, these methods might help protect your parents and other drivers on the road.

Where to Get Help With Aging Parents and Driving

Taking the car away from an elderly parent can be emotional for both an adult child and their parent. As an adult child, you may be fearful about bringing up the conversation or just unsure how to do it effectively. Approach your parents from a place of care, keeping their safety the priority. 

Taking keys away from elderly parents can be a complicated and lengthy process, and you may need to seek professional help along the way.

At Stowell Associates, we can assist you and your parents. We’re uniquely positioned to help in two critical ways as you discuss driving with your aging parents: 

  1. Our experienced Care Team includes masters-level social workers who can come alongside you and offer expert advice on how to take car keys away from an elderly parent.
  2. Our highly-trained Caregivers can care for your parents at their place of residence. Every Stowell Caregiver is required to have a driver’s license to provide transportation services for clients if needed.

Contact us today, and let us talk with you. We can help you and your aging loved ones successfully approach the topic of driving in a delicate, constructive manner.

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