Knowing When to Take the Keys

The thought of taking keys from an elderly parent is uncomfortable for most.  So uncomfortable in fact that many avoid even having a conversation about it.  That’s because it can be one of the hardest conversations to have.  Driving may be one of the last things that allows a parent to feel independent and self-sufficient.
While it may be a difficult conversation it is also an important one.  As parents get older they may face a number of new physical and mental challenges that can interfere with or prohibit safe driving.  Declines in vision, hearing, and mobility can significantly impact driving ability.  Side effects from medications can also interfere.  Cognitive issues are no exception.  Memory loss and confusion can create a dangerous situation on the road.
So how do you know when it’s time to consider taking the keys?  Watch your parents driving closely.  Do reaction times seem slower?  Are they drifting in the lane or easily startled or distracted?  Also, listen for stories about getting lost, confused, or recent accidents (no matter how minor).
If you’re seeing warning signs and feel it’s time to have a conversation with your parent keep in mind it will likely be hard for them to hear.  Stay calm while you show your concern.  Try to imagine things from their perspective.  If necessary, involve other family members or providers in the conversation.  Let them know it’s coming from a place of love and concern – not judgement.  It can also be helpful to work together to develop a plan that will provide alternative transportation methods to ensure continued mobility.
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