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When You Don't See Eye-to-Eye with Seniors

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Your senior wants to keep driving, but you don’t think it’s a good idea. When you don’t see eye-to-eye, tempers within families can flare and hard feelings may result.

“What makes driving decisions so emotional is that this may be the first time a loved one—an adult child or a spouse—has to step over the line and say ‘no’ to something that another adult wants to do,” said Elin Schold Davis, Project Coordinator, Older Driver Initiative, American Occupational Therapy Association. “Evaluations are so helpful if caregivers are unsure whether Dad should stop driving or not. Questioning someone’s driving competency is a big deal. Until it is done, families can be caught between a rock and a hard place because seniors still have rights.”

Here are some strategies to help get everyone in the family on the same page:

Get the facts and decide the best course of action. Taking away the car keys should be the last choice. An evaluation from an occupational therapist can provide an objective third-party voice. Occupational therapists are often called in by physicians to evaluate driving competence after a medical event such as a fall, amputation or paralysis after a stroke. Occupational therapists also can be contacted any time by a family when it has concerns and could benefit from recommendations to help improve and maximize their senior loved one’s driving abilities.

Blame the disease. Think about giving up a lifelong habit and what that could mean in your life. The self-esteem of older adults who no longer drive can suffer. Remind your aging loved one that they did not lose their ability to drive because someone, like their caring physician, arbitrarily “took it away.” It was the changes experienced from their disease or condition of aging that made it no longer safe to drive.

Make sure you have a plan in place. Unless you suspect an immediate threat of danger to an older adult or others, it’s not recommended that you take the car keys away from an older adult without presenting a comprehensive plan of alternatives to help give your loved one the confidence that he or she can still face life with independence. Contact your local Home Instead® office to learn how the services of a CAREGiver℠ could help.

Discover some of the top road blocks families face when seniors give up the car keys.

Last revised: April 28, 2016

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. February 26, 2017 at 8:56 am | Posted by Charlene wood

    My clients family disabled the car so it wouldn't run. When my client wanted to go for a ride we gave him the keys and said it wasn't running and if he could fix it he could go for a drive. After awhile he got distracted and forgot about going for a drive. Then he remembered that the car didn't run so he went on to something else.


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