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Giving Up the Car Keys: Tips for a tough conversation

For many of us, driving is a right of passage and a large part of becoming an adult. For seniors who have to give up their keys, it can feel like they are giving up their independence. The discussion about giving up driving is a hard one for the seniors and their loved ones. It can be even harder when the senior no longer has the cognitive ability to drive or make the rational decision to stop. In our 20+ years of senior living experience, we have picked up a few pieces of wisdom we’d like to share. Here are our top tips to make this undoubtedly difficult conversation a little easier. 

Before you have the conversation:

  • Remember that this conversation will likely be a process:
    • Start early and keep talking about it! You want to prevent accidents and other injuries from happening well before a severe decline occurs.
  • Personally observe their skills:
    • See for yourself! Observe their daily living activities as well as their driving. Is there anything that would hinder their driving ability? Aging impacts everyone differently, which means different people will need to stop driving at different times in their lives.
  • See if they have any medical conditions that would affect their driving ability:
    • Dementia can cause cognitive decline affecting memory, reasoning, and concentration. Other medical conditions can affect reflexes, feeling in limbs, sight, and many other important aspects of driving.  A doctor can definitely give an opinion about driving ability.
  • Look for signs that they need to stop driving:
    • These signs can include traffic tickets, anxiety about driving at night, fender benders, and even accidents.

When you have the conversation:

  • Frame the conversation as a change, not a loss:
    • A lot of the resistance to giving up driving is due to the fear of being stranded and isolated at home with no way to get around. Here at Bel Aire Senior Living in American Fork we encourage residents to use a taxi, Lyft or Uber service.
    • Offer them a driver safety course or test:
    • If they are insistent about continuing to drive, taking a driver safety course can remind them about the rules of the road, and a test can prove driving proficiency (or not).
  • Keep safety in mind:
    • Sometimes our loved one’s cognitive ability will not allow rational decision-making. Ultimately a decision must be made (by a responsible person) that will keep them, and everyone else on the road safe.

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