It’s awkward and painful to have to inform an older adult that they aren’t capable of doing something as basic and essential as driving the car. For them, it’s another humiliating reminder of their growing inability to take care of themselves and manage the tasks of daily life.

Before you have the conversation, its important to understand the stand point of your loved one. It may be difficult to refrain from saying something like: You’ve GOT to stop driving “You’re going to kill someone!”, but take a step back and plan ahead before you begin the conversation. Realize that giving up the keys can be very difficult, as it symbolizes a loss of independence.

Here are some things to look for when contemplating if you should encourage your elderly loved one to stop driving:

  • Nicks or dents on the car. Notice the car body as you get in and out. Damage marks can be signs of careless driving.
  • Whether the person promptly fastens his or her seatbelt. Even people with mild dementia usually follow the rote basics of driving. It’s worrisome if he or she is forgetting this step.
  • Tension, preoccupation, or being easily distracted. The person may turn off the radio, for example, or be unwilling to engage in conversation while driving. He or she may avoid certain routes, highway driving, or driving at night and in rain; a safe kind of self-policing but also signals of changing ability.
  • Signs of dangerous driving. People whose driving ability is impaired are more likely to tailgate, drift from their lane, go below the speed limit, react slowly to lights or other cars, and mix up gas and brake pedals.
  • Warning lights. Check out the dashboard as you ride along. Does the car have sufficient oil, gas, antifreeze, windshield-wiper fluid?

A good way to begin the conversation is to ask open ended questions, and encourage your elderly adult to talk about his or her concerns over driving. Start off by saying something like, “What have you been up to lately when you’re not at home?” Find out what activities your loved one is involved in that require transportation. Then proceed to ask them how comfortable they are with their driving, and if they have any concerns. Be careful not to sound accusatory, and also be sure to let them participate in the conclusion. You want this to be their idea. If you are really concerned over their driving, but they remain unconcerned, a good option at this point may be for them to take a driving test through a local agency. This way, the suggestion is coming from someone other than you.

If the outcome is that your loved one should no longer be driving, be sure to come prepared with resources. Companies such as Havenwood can assist with transportation to and from activities such as; Doctors appointments, family gatherings, grocery shopping, etc.