NOTE: We understand that sometimes Dad’s keys need to be taken away, too. Rather than using the awkward “he or she” pronoun replacement, we have adopted the feminine form for the sake of simplicity.
In the preceding article we discussed the main things to look for when you begin to question whether Mom should still be driving. Should that answer be “no”, this article will give you some ideas about how to broach the subject – or force the issue.
If you feel uncertain, you can also consult a driver’s rehabilitation specialist who can assess your mom’s driving skills and provide an objective assessment. Alternatively, Driver’s tests are available at local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices. If your mom fails her test, then it will be easier to convince her to give up driving.
If it is determined that your mom still has the ability to drive, a mature driving course can sometimes be beneficial to brush up on her driving skills.
There is no age limit for taking a driver safety course. Even the most experienced drivers can benefit from it (and get insurance discounts, too), These lessons will introduce elders to the current rules of the road, defensive driving techniques, and how to operate a vehicle more safely in today’s increasingly challenging driving environment. Instructors can also make recommendations for managing and accommodating age-related changes in vision, hearing and reaction time.
Should the decision be made that should no longer drive, a good place to start is to have a candid conversation with your mom about why you are concerned about her driving. If you chose to take her for a driving test and the results are negative and she is still not convinced, the conversation becomes a bit more complicated.
Explain the specific signs that indicate she is no longer fit to drive, such as accidents, tickets, confusion, or slow reactions. Be compassionate and empathetic, but firm and clear.
Avoid blaming or shaming her and focus on the positive aspects of giving up driving, such as saving money, reducing stress, and avoiding legal troubles. Try to understand your mother’s perspective and empathize with her feelings. Let her know that you are concerned for her safety and well-being, and that you are there to help her.
To address the fear of the loss of freedom mention alternative transportation options for your mom to get where she needs or wants to go. This could include rides from family and friends, public transportation, ridesharing programs, paratransit services, senior centers, or volunteer drivers.
Of course, you will want to help set these up. You can also help her plan her trips in advance and accompany her on some outings to make her feel more comfortable.
Rather than making Mom go “cold turkey” try the option of a gradual transition. Unless the drop-off of her abilities is dramatic, try to gradually transition your mother away from driving by limiting her driving to certain times of day or certain routes, or by encouraging her to drive with a trusted family member or friend.
When the day comes, now or later, for the car to be taken from Mom’s control, one approach may be for you to “hold” her keys for safekeeping. This absolutely must be done if her license has been officially taken away.
Remember that you are doing this out of love and concern for your mom’s well-being. It may take some time for her to adjust to this change, but she may eventually appreciate your care and support.