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Having “The Talk” With Your Parent (About Driving)

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We’re all familiar with “The Talk.” It can be sensitive, uncomfortable, and awkward. You want to make sure you’re providing useful information without embarrassment, and you want to create a safe environment for questions or concerns. 

Of course, we’re referring to having “The Talk” with your aging parent about driving. This talk can be just as important as the birds and the bees, and yes, just as uncomfortable. The Springs at Simpsonville offers senior care services, including assisted living and memory care, and safety is our priority. We know that this conversation is critical, and we want to share some tips on how to approach this sensitive subject with your parents. 

Put Yourself in the Driver’s Seat 

Remember when you first got your driver’s license? Nothing could stop that feeling of freedom and independence as you cruised down the open road. You could have been out driving all day, but a designated curfew made you feel restrained. 

Or having to leave your car in the shop for a few days and relying on your spouse or close friends for rides, how uncomfortable it can feel to be that dependent on others. 

Now, think about your parents. In some cases, they have been driving for over 50 or 60 years, so the idea of not being able to may seem unimaginable. Take that feeling that you had when you didn’t have your car for a few days, and magnify it. Your parent(s) will likely feel as if they are losing some form of independence. Remind yourself of this before you have the conversation, making a point to be mindful and sensitive of their feelings about the matter. 

Be Proactive, Not Reactive   

Much like having The Talk with your teenager about the birds and the bees, you want to bring up the conversation before you need to—before something unsafe occurs. Try to make it an ongoing discussion. You can present the topic long before any problems have occurred, saying things like “Mom, what would have to happen for you to know that you should retire from driving?” or “In the future, if I notice you being unsafe on the road, how would you want me to approach you?” By keeping your parents included and having an open, continual dialogue, they might feel less blindsided and hurt when the time does come to “put the brakes” on driving. 

Gradually Press the Brakes   

Take some time to observe your parent’s driving abilities and see how safe they are. (This can also double as an opportunity for them to chauffeur you around like when you were younger). You may determine that they don’t need to cease driving cold turkey but could benefit from a limited driving option. This could be a great way to transition them into driving less without completely curtailing their independence. 

Some considerations for limited driving include: 

  • Only driving during the day and avoiding rush hour 
  • Refraining from driving during bad weather 
  • Staying off highways when possible 
  • Only driving for necessity or to familiar places  
  • Ensuring they feel well and healthy before getting on the road 
  • Limiting distractions such as the radio or cell phones 

“Now What?”

Let’s go back to the time you left your car in the shop. Imagine if the auto mechanic had told you that there was something seriously wrong with your vehicle, and ended the conversation without offering any solutions. You’d probably find a new mechanic, right? 

The same applies to talking to your parents about retiring from driving. And while your parents can’t just find a new child, they might not be as willing to listen if there are no solutions offered. Before approaching the subject, be sure to have several options and alternatives to discuss. Fortunately, in today’s world, there are countless options available for individuals who, for whatever reason, do not drive. 

Some transportation options to suggest include: 

  • Ride-share services like Uber or Lyft (a great option for older adults who are proficient in using smartphones)
  • Carpooling with neighbors or friends, or setting up a schedule for you to drive them yourself
  • Public transportation or services like Paratransit, which provides transportation to older and disabled adults 
  • Setting up a recurring grocery delivery service, reducing the need to drive
  • Hiring a caregiver or driver to assist with transportation needs 

Having The Talk can be uncomfortable for everyone involved–whether it’s your teenager or your parent! However, both of these talks are extremely important. Ensuring that your parents are safe on the road will benefit them and other drivers. By approaching the subject early and having open, two-way communication, you can ease your parent’s worries and, hopefully, make it easier for them to give up the keys. 

Through our assisted living, memory care, and other senior care services, The Springs at Simpsonville aims to help older adults and their families navigate care, life, and the future. For more resources on how to talk to your aging parents, senior health, and assisted living, visit our resources page!

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