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How to Talk to Your Parents About Giving up Their Driver’s Licenses

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Talking to your parents about giving up their driver’s licenses is never easy. How do you tell the people who raised you, and who likely taught you to drive, that they aren’t safe behind the wheel any longer?

When the time comes to have this conversation, going about it in the right way can maximize the chance they listen to you—and minimize the risk of hurting their feelings. As elder care experts, we’ve seen these conversations play out for decades. Although no two people or situations are the same, these are the strategies that we recommend from years of professional experience.

7 Strategies When Talking to Your Parents about Giving up Their Licenses

Conversation with elderly parent in Lancaster & York, PA

Above all, this conversation requires sensitivity and care. Along with your love and respect, these strategies can make a difficult conversation a little easier.

  1. Schedule time for the conversation—Since you’re expecting this conversation to be tense, make time for it on its own. Don’t bring this up at the tail end of a family gathering. Not only do you risk spoiling a good time, you risk creating the feeling of an ambush.
  2. Bring along evidence—Whether the evidence is reported from a doctor or a few close calls they’ve already had, start the conversation with something factual to reference. This makes the conversation less about your opinion and more about the facts of aging. This can help spare them from feeling disrespected.
  3. Don’t go alone—If possible, bring along your siblings or other loved ones. Having more than one caring person presenting this message can keep it from feeling like a personal attack. Not having your siblings support can lead to a rift if your siblings disagree with you on what’s best for Mom and Dad.
  4. Make compromises—If you feel that they are able to drive in low-pressure situations, you can soften the blow by suggesting they only partially stop driving. You can suggest:
    • Daylight driving only
    • Short trips only
    • Driving to familiar places
    • Staying on quiet roads
    • Avoiding the highway
  5. Offer solutions—Since the prospect of giving up their mobility is daunting, alleviate that anxiety with well-thought-out solutions. The best-received solutions require little extra effort on your parents’ end while leaving them feeling comfortable. Some solutions include:
    • Kids and grandkids driving in shifts
    • An in-home caregiver who can drive them anywhere, anytime
    • Community rideshare programs for the elderly (provided it’s available in your area)
  6. Present the silver lining—While they are losing something by giving up their licenses, remind them of what they can reap in return. For example, an in-home caregiver who drives them to the store can also help them shop. After all, if they are having trouble driving, they may struggle in the store—and might really appreciate the assistance. Or being chauffeured by family can translate to more quality time with grandchildren.
  7. Reframe it as tough love—First and foremost, ensure that your care and concern is what they see. If they’ve always prided themselves as providing you with tough love as a parent, let them know that you’re returning the favor, with the same good intentions. More than anything, a positive attitude and a caring heart will make this difficult conversation easier.

Reasons Seniors Should Stop Driving

As people age, they change physically and mentally. Unfortunately, those changes that come with age are most often for the worse, not better. These impairments can affect many aspects of life, and they do so differently for many people.

These are the major reasons most seniors are no longer able to drive safely:

  • Vision—Driving requires you to pay close attention to what’s going on around you: other drivers, road signs, road conditions, etc. If you can’t see particularly well anymore, driving can be EXTREMELY dangerous. For example, imagine mistaking the highway off-ramp for the on-ramp—frightening.
  • Cognitive Issues—The rules of the road can be complicated, and following them improperly is extremely unsafe. In a sense, driving is making a series of decisions based on a set of rules we all must follow. The wrong decision, like confusing right on red for left on red, can be dangerous for your loved one and for others. Dementia in the elderly is one of the most serious cognitive impairments that can inhibit the ability to drive.
  • Reflexes—When other drivers don’t behave safely, our quick reflexes keep us protected. Our reflexes are necessary to allow us to slam on the breaks or to swerve to avoid an accident. Even if your parent knows the right thing to do, someone else’s dangerous behavior can put them in a dangerous situation, and their reflexes might not be quick enough.
  • Movement Issues—As much as we might take it for granted, driving safely requires a full range of motion. Being able to check our mirrors when merging is extremely important. Not being able to rely on that can make a car’s ordinary blind spots downright massive.

Why Seniors Don’t Want to Give up Their Licenses

You need to try to understand your parents’ point of view when talking to them about giving up their driver’s licenses. Even though you have their best interests at heart, convincing them of that can be difficult. From our experience, if there is resistance, that resistance will be vehement. Consider it from their perspective:

They may feel that without driving they will become isolated in their home, no longer able to keep up with the people and activities that they care about. If they live in a suburban area, the options for public transport are extremely limited.

They likely will resent the idea of relying on other people for something they have done on their own for decades.

  • They may feel disrespected. Even if they know you’re having this conversation out of love, you’re telling them that they can’t be trusted anymore.
  • Driving represents freedom, and you’re asking them to surrender that willingly. Even if they don’t drive often, they likely still appreciate that they can if need be.
  • Finally, the reasons for asking a loved one to stop driving are directly related to their physical and cognitive abilities. Although the decline in their capabilities may be apparent to you, your parents might be in denial about the loss of those abilities.

How In-Home Senior Care Can Help

Caregiver Driving Elderly WomannOur senior caregivers often provide transportation to their clients in addition to many other duties. This allows your parents to go anywhere they want and ensure they have the help they need when they get there. As opposed to using Uber or taxi services, your loved ones see the same person every day and have a chance to build trust with their caregiver.

Furthermore, if your parents are passionate about keeping their licenses, they are probably also committed to staying in their home. Our in-home senior care professionals allow hundreds of people throughout York and Lancaster to stay in their homes, rather than going to nursing homes.

Thinking about how in-home care could improve your parents’ lives? Start the conversation with By Your Side Home Care today.

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