We have discussed the issue of driving and elders several times before:
A few days ago, another blog article was published by Carol Larkin, a geriatric care manager in Texas, on this topic. It is a good one, and I will steal a few important points, with pride, to reinforce. 🙂
The issue, of course, concerns elders who should no longer be driving, either because of medical conditions — including dementia and vision — or simply driving ability. Many seniors are competent to drive. This discussion is about those who should no longer be behind the wheel.
One of the first points Carol makes is about timing of the discussion between adult children of elders and their parents. When and how do we bring up the topic? One suggestion is when there is a medication change (new medication, change of dosage, etc.). I like that idea. Another suggestion that is a bit more problematic for me is after an accident or a “near miss.” In our experience, elderly parents do not tend to share near miss experiences with their adult children, for the very reason that they want to continue to drive. After the accident, especially if there is dementia present — more on that later — is really too late.
One point Carol makes that I want to emphasize is, “Be prepared for negative reactions. After all, your loved one knows where these conversations are leading.” This is absolutely true. Our parents have been grown-ups for decades. Any challenge to their independence is going to be threatening.
Another very important point Carol makes is that most single elders respond to their doctor’s direction to stop driving better than any one else. That makes the elder’s doctor a critical resource for the family. Some doctors are very willing to have the conversation or even take action to cancel someone’s driver’s license. Unfortunately, too many doctors are reluctant to get involved. The number of general practitioners who do not have an adequate understanding of dementia is too high, as we have discussed before. Get to know your parents’ doctors, with your parents’ permission. They can be critical allies or make your role as a concerned adult child harder.
One other critical point Carol makes is make sure how have your data straight. Know the facts and the issues. Be prepared, before you initiate a discussion on driving. It will eliminate a lot of emotion and give you a better chance of getting the results you want.
The last point I want to emphasize from Carol’s article is so important:
One of these days, a judge somewhere will rule that the other family members (meaning adult children) are liable as accessories, if they knew that their loved one should not be driving, yet took no action to stop them.
I absolutely concur. It may have happened already, somewhere. If not it will be happening, just as parents are now held to be liable for some children’s actions.
So, if your elderly loved one is still competent to drive, right now, wonderful. If she or he is not, do not sit on the sidelines — or in the passenger’s seat. Be brave, be proactive, take action.
Best wishes, Bert