October 2, 2013

Seniors and Driving: When to Start Driving Your Parents to Appointments

For seniors, driving is a sign of freedom. They can come and go as they please, and not have to depend on others for transportation. As your parent’s caregiver, you may be concerned about his or her driving capabilities; especially if your parent has dementia. Your first instinct may be to just take the keys away, but it is not always that simple.

Discuss your parent’s driving abilities with your siblings. If you and your siblings are in agreement on how to handle the situation, then you will have a team of support. To broach the subject with your parent, you may want to have your parent’s physician present. The doctor can explain why it is unsafe for your parent to continue driving and reassure your parent that you will be available to drive him or her.

Your parent may disagree with you about giving up the keys, but the law may make the final decision. Many states have shorter license renewal periods for seniors. Your parent may be required to take a written or road test. If the state does take your parent’s license away, be there to support him or her. You will need to reassure your parent that he or she is not going to lose independence because you will be there to drive him or her.

If your parent does not currently live with you but you are the primary caregiver, you may want to consider having your parent move in. Having your parent live with you will make it easier to take him or her to doctor appointments. And, your parent can depend on you to pick up prescriptions and groceries when you are already out doing your personal errands.

Giving up the ability to drive is sometimes a very difficult and emotional experience for seniors. They will feel like their independence has been taken from them. As the primary caregiver, you will need to support and help them understand this is for their own safety as well as the safety of others on the road.