It can be extremely difficult to watch an aging parent decline, and the aging process can lead to some difficult conversations. Surprisingly, 39% of adults feel that the most dreaded topic to discuss with an aging parent is when they need to stop driving. This ranks above talking to parents about final wishes and wills, which 24% of adults feel is the hardest.
How to broach the subject
Driving is such a difficult activity to stop because, in many ways, it is the epitome of freedom. Mobility matters—and the lack of it can be devastating. That’s why it is important to begin this conversation with care and empathy.
7 tips for talking to your parent about retiring from driving
- Begin the conversation well in advance. Before it’s necessary for your parent to stop driving, find out how they would like to handle a scenario in which it is no longer safe for them to be on the road. Who do they want to talk to them about their driving to minimize discomfort and embarrassment? Allow them to retain control of the situation by choosing the circumstances as much as possible.
- Observe their driving regularly. Don’t assume that your parent can or cannot drive. See for yourself. How is their reaction time? Are they following the speed limit? Are they aware of the cars around them? Come to the conversation equipped with real observations and maybe with statistics about the subject.
- Focus on your concern for their welfare as opposed to their declining capabilities. Approach this subject with emotional sensitivity and empathy. One factor you could bring up is that the rate of fatalities in accidents increases significantly in older individuals.
- Acknowledge their emotions. This is a hard thing. Let them know you understand how difficult it must be and express your concern for their safety.
- Set up alternate transportation arrangements. Community carpools, Uber or Lyft are all options for your parent. In today’s world, not having a driver’s license does not mean they will not be able to get around and do what they like.
- Talk one-on-one. Never gang up on a parent with a large group. They will feel like a victim of bullying, rather than the person of concern.
- Suggest a driver’s test. If your parent remains reluctant to give up driving, retaking the driver’s test may be objective enough to convince them of the necessity.
Giving up driving is a difficult and emotional subject. These guidelines may help you approach a tricky conversation with sensitivity and thoughtfulness.