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3 Roadblocks Families Typically Face When Seniors Give Up the Car Keys

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Your senior loved one has voluntarily given up the car keys and you may be breathing a sigh of relief. While your mind could be at ease, problems for you and the senior who may be counting on your help might be just beginning.

The relief over whether or not an older adult is safe on the road may now be replaced by worries about how your loved one will get where he or she needs to go. According to research conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead® network, surveyed seniors reportedly have plenty of access to other forms of transportation but, despite this access, they tend to rely most heavily on their family (46%) and friends (32%) for transportation. However, there are other resources that can help.

  1. The to and from. Even if a senior is living in a care community, he or she still needs to get to doctor appointments, events and to the store. An AARP survey reported that transportation issues are among the most stressful for family caregivers. If you were the one encouraging a senior to give up the car keys, that older adult may now be depending on you for transportation. Check with your Area Agency on Aging for the senior ride services available and touch base with other family members and friends to develop a plan with which both you and your older loved one is comfortable. It’s best to do this before your senior stops driving. Check out the “No Longer Driving” section of the Senior Driving Planner.

  2. The stress of a depressed senior. A recent study funded by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that when older drivers stop driving they may be more likely to feel depressed and to develop other health problems than their peers who remain on the road. Giving up the car keys was linked to an almost doubled risk of depression, the analysis found. Researchers believe that might be at least partly due to the social isolation or lack of independence that can occur when elderly people can no longer get around by car. Be sure your senior has a plan in place to stay connected.

  3. The guilt. Even though you know it was the best decision for everyone, family caregivers can feel guilty about their role in encouraging a loved one to stop driving. If you based your decisions and recommendations on fact and helped an older adult find alternative transportation options, there’s nothing to feel guilty about.

Check out what to do when you don’t see eye-to-eye with a senior loved one about driving.

Last revised: April 20, 2016

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. June 27, 2016 at 11:27 am | Posted by Deanna Johnson

    My mother was 92 when I finally got the keys away from her. All the talks about worrying about her safety because she was unable to turn her head were in vain. For 2 yrs I had been driving her to 99% of the places she had to go but she would invariably slip out while I was at work just to run to the grocery store or something. (I was lucky that we had planned ahead & she lived right across the street from me). Then one day on my way to work someone ran a red light & totaled my vehicle. Even though we had another vehicle, I used that opportunity to "borrow" her car all the time. I still had to park it back in her garage every day, which was an inconvenience for me but gave her the feeling of still being in control. I never let her forget how much I appreciated her letting me use her car & how I didn't know what I would have done without her. Instead of feeling like she was being stripped of all of her freedoms & choices, I tried to make her feel like she was really helping me out a lot. Believe me, it was a sacrifice on my part too, the a/c didn't work & couldn't seem to be fixed in her car, not to mention it was a huge gas hog & the rubber on the windows was starting to dry rot & leaked when it rained. Eventually, after about a year, she moved in with me & by that time I had settled with my ins. co. on my accident & was ready to replace my vehicle. We ended up moving to a single level home & really didn't have room to keep the car & sold it then. She had gotten to the place where she could barely walk with a walker but still insisted that the reason for her decline wasn't because I took her car & she wasn't able to drive.


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