I recently received a question from Marlene G. of Millbrae on her challenges of trying to stop her 91-year-old father from driving his car.
Marlene asks, “My father is 91-years-old, and even though he thinks he can drive his car safely, we have proof that he can’t. For example, a few weeks ago I came over to visit him and noticed a large scratch on the left back bumper. When I asked him about it he tried to change the subject. After some coaxing, he finally told me that he backed into a gas station pump while trying to get gas. Luckily for him the results were only a scratch on his car, and no damage to the pump. (So he says, but I still wonder about that.) I again tried to breach the subject that maybe it was time for him to stop driving and he got very angry and defensive. This is an on again, off again conversation I have been having with him since he was 88 years old, with no avail. Please help – I am very worried that he will end up hurting himself or God forbid someone else. Thanks!”
Answer from Mary Marymount:
Marlene, we really appreciate your question. So many adult children are currently grappling with this challenge. Like you said, it can become a major safety issue for your father and others. So, here are some ways to take the car keys away from your elderly loved one before it’s too late:
1. Set up a driving evaluation with an outside entity: There are organizations that offer driving evaluations for seniors and the disabled such as the Courage Center. (http://www.couragecenter.org). You can also call their insurance company and see if they also offer any driving evaluation programs for seniors. You won’t look like the bad guy if an outside entity suggests that they no longer drive.
2. Have their physician take the keys away. Talk to their doctor about your concerns with your elderly loved one driving. Medical doctors are now urged by the American Medical Association (AMA) to offer counsel to family members or caregivers about side effects of medications, health or medical-related conditions that would affect an elderly person’s ability to drive. And, the AMA recommends that they counsel the patient directly and even ask for and accept the car keys. Older adults many times readily accept recommendations by their physicians. In addition, physicians can write a medical status report which you can present to your state Department of Motor Vehicles.
3. Talk to the family attorney about their driving. If there is an attorney representing Mom and Dad, or even the entire family, he or she may be consulted regarding the risks to their estate in the event your elderly loved one was involved in a serious accident. The risks may also cost the other family members their shares if the estate can be sued successfully by a victim or the victim’s family. The attorney may also agree to meet with your elderly loved one to present reasons for giving up the car keys as an important step towards safety for all.
4. Have an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist take the keys away: Because having good vision is the key to safe driving, an eye specialist can conduct an eye exam at which time they can also ask for the keys. They are, of course, are also acting in accordance with the American Medical Association’s recommendation, the same as #2 above.
5. Talk to your State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): You can meet with your local DMV to present background and health information in an organized form, at the same time requesting that your elderly loved one receive a request from them for new vision examinations, tests on paper, and even an examination to drive with an inspector. Any action or decision is determined by the inspectors. And, best of all, this can all be done anonymously by you.
By taking action BEFORE something bad happens due to them driving when they are not capable, you not only protect your elderly loved one but others that could be hurt badly in an accident caused by them.
Would you add anything else to this list? Please let us know.
Stay tuned for our next blog on February 4, 2013, on “How to Help Your Senior Loved One Eat a Heart Healthy Diet (When All They Want is Ice Cream!)”
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