The discussion about giving up driving will probably be a constant conversation, says Dr. McCoy. It can be a process that requires time and patience. To orient yourself in this process, consider some of the following tips.
Choose the right time
Giving up driving can be a sensitive topic and for some it can feel like giving up a sense of independence. To help your loved one feel comfortable during this conversation, raise the topic in private in a calm and comfortable environment, says Dr. McCoy. Avoid confrontation and do not gather an extended family for a meeting that seems like interference.
“You want to participate, not intrude,” said Dr. McCoy. If you are unsure of the exact time, consider starting a conversation while watching TV together or stopping for lunch while shopping. If applicable, mention a recent incident you have recently had and ask something like, “Have you had problems with aggressive drivers?”
“Make sure you have plenty of time and come from a non-conflicting place of love,” says Dr. McCoy. “You may get some repulsion, or they may say, ‘Let me think about it.’
Ideally, this conversation will happen early enough so that your loved one does not feel pressured. “It’s better to just talk about it and not treat them as senile,” added Dr. McCoy. “You want to say that the goal is for them to be independent and safe.”
Suggest examples and facts
Once the conversation begins, share the examples and facts you have prepared. Ask how your loved one feels about driving at night or in the rain, or raise an incident they have mentioned in the past, for example: “You mentioned that you were recently scared on the road. Do you think it’s time to think about how you can continue to meet your friends or go to the symphony without driving?
Asking about their car maintenance and registration can also be helpful. This may be a time to ask if they have considered not renewing their registration or they may like that they do not have to take care of their car.
You can also show them statistics showing the risks of deaths and injuries to people in their age group, Dr. McCoy suggests. “What usually works for me in these conversations is to say, ‘You’re a good person, and I know you wouldn’t want to hurt a child if you caused an accident.’ “Imagine how that will make you feel,” she added.
Perhaps the most important thing in any conversation about the ability to drive is empathy. Be compassionate and try not to get angry if your loved one does not want to hand over the car keys immediately. Denying the freedom and autonomy to travel without help is important to many people, says Dr. McCoy. In addition, most people do not want to be a burden to others when it comes to transportation. It is important to help them make this transition to not driving, by helping them maintain their social life and their sense of independence.
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I’m making a plan
Withdrawal from driving can lead to risks, and older people who stop driving are reported to be nearly twice as likely to suffer from depression, according to the Mass Laboratory Institute of Technology (MIT) and Hartford Funds. To reduce the risks, make a plan to help your loved one maintain their quality of life during this transition.
Loved ones are also less likely to feel burdened if taking places is designed as a way to enjoy time together rather than as a task or service you do for them. A grocery trip could also include dinner or a movie, Dr. McCoy suggested.
If you live close enough to a loved one and are able to drive them where they may need to go, Dr. McCoy recommends that you be careful with over-commitment. Having a list of backup drivers who can drive, if necessary, as a neighbor or grandson, can also help ease the responsibility of family members.
There are various ways to help a person maintain their independence, even without a driver’s license. If it is safe for them to ride the bus or other public transport in their area, help them navigate the schedule and familiarize them with the stops they will need. If your loved one lives in an apartment or home for the elderly, find out what travel sharing options may be available in their building or wider community. Automated order delivery services such as groceries and medicines can also help, but Dr McCoy notes that it is important for older people to leave the house in the fresh air and continue to communicate.