As we age we begin to lose some of the abilities that are needed to drive because of the changes that our bodies face. Many seniors have trouble driving due to a decrease in their vision or hearing or because their motor reflexes have slowed down a bit. All of these factors along with stiffer and weaker bodies cause the number of fatal car crashes to be significantly higher in drivers that are over 70 years old. To help protect your elderly loved one, it is very important to know when to take away their keys. In this article we would like to share some tips on how you can help your elderly parent adjust to life without driving so that the process will be easier and less frustrating for everyone involved.
The first thing to keep in mind is that seniors should still be able to feel like they have some control over their situation even though they will no longer be able to drive. Talk with your loved ones about why you think that they should limit or stop their driving so that they can be a part of the decision and then discuss alternate ways for them to get around. Many seniors feel better if they are allowed to keep their car and have someone else drive it because that allows them to have some familiarity since they will still be riding in their own car. Before taking away the keys, be sure to look for public transportation in the area and find out the schedules and costs in case your loved one needs to go somewhere and does not have someone who can take them.
Maintain the Regular Schedule
When taking away your parent’s keys it is also important to keep their regular schedule in mind. They might not want to rely solely on public transportation or it might not be available where they are going, so you should try to find ways for them to get around without having to give things up. If your parents have a regularly scheduled appointment at a time when you cannot drive them, they can try out public transportation or you can help them find a friend or neighbor who is willing to take them. It also might be a bit harder for your parents to go shopping and bring home a lot of groceries or purchases on public transportation, so you should try to work out a schedule that works for both of you so that they will have access to the things they need at the store and not feel stranded at home.
Social Events and Outing
One thing that people tend to overlook when taking away the keys from their parents is social events and outings. Social events and outings might not be a necessity, but if your parents have become used to them it will be harder to adjust to not having a car if they have to give up all of their usual outings. If your parents likes to go to church or are part of a book club or some other group that meets regularly you should try to make sure that they have a ride to the event. If you are interested in attending the event with them you can drive them yourself, but if you are not available you can help them find someone who lives close by that is going to the same place so that they can ride with them. Many seniors hate feeling like they always have to ask others for rides, so helping them find someone to ride with can make them feel more comfortable and less dependent.
Social and Online Alternatives
If your loved one likes to shop a lot you can introduce them to online shopping. Many seniors do not shop online because they are afraid to provide their credit card information online; teaching your loved one how to safely shop online can be a huge help. In today’s market there are a lot of things that can be bought online and delivered straight to your house, so this can be very beneficial for seniors without a car. If your parents like to read you can show them places where they can borrow books online or purchase eBooks instead of going out to the bookstore. Making sure that your loved one has access to things that they are interested in will help keep them from getting bored at home.
Following these tips is a great way to start helping your loved one adjust to not being able to drive. If they are still having trouble adjusting you can encourage them to take up a hobby around the house or one that they can take with them in the car so that they will not get bored while they are riding.
Additional related articles in our Home Care blog:
- Warning signs a senior should not be driving
- Tips on How to Be a Safe Elderly Driver
- Mobility Aids for Seniors (2 Part article)