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How to Approach an Aging Parent About Driving

Woman helping elderly woman out of driver's seat of car

As your parent ages, you may find yourself facing questions about driving safety. Many adult children list driving as a difficult conversation. So, if you’re unsure of how to approach the topic, you’re not alone.

Often, driving is a complex topic because it is linked to a person’s sense of independence and freedom. As you start to approach the topic with your aging parent, it’s important to make sure your parent feels they have a say. Use these tips to guide your conversation and make the right choices together.

Watch for Early Signs
Mom or dad may be driving well now. But, have you thought about the future? It’s important to stay tuned into any early signs that your parent’s abilities are changing. Before there is a big change, bring up the topic. It will be easier to move from driving to other transportation options if you’ve talked about it ahead of time. To help talk through the issues together, use this free driving planning agreement from AAA.

Think About When and Who 
Be sure you pick the right time and approach for your conversation. Don’t immediately demand that mom or dad stop driving. Instead, use an opportunity – like your loved one’s errands or needing car maintenance – to ask how they’re doing with driving. Also, consider who might be the best person to bring up the topic. Your parent may respond better to a one particular family member or trusted friend.

Use Outside Resources
If you already have concerns about your loved one’s driving, it’s helpful to have outside opinions. For example, encourage mom or dad to talk with his or her physician about how medical conditions or medications affect driving. Find a local driving safety course. If your concerns are serious, schedule a formal driving assessment with a professional. This provides written observations of major issues.

Bring a List of Alternatives
Be prepared with a list of driving alternatives, including family, friends, community organizations, ride sharing, public transportation, or delivery services. The AARP recommends also including the benefits of these options. These could include less expensive, safer, or less trouble than car maintenance. You should also consider how a senior living community may help. Communities have built-in transportation for errands, activities, and doctor’s appointments.

Be Prepared to Talk Again
You’ll most likely need to talk multiple times with your parent about driving. At first, find small changes that your loved one can agree to make – such as reducing the number of trips or not driving at night. And, don’t give up if you don’t make much progress the first time. Mom or dad’s safety is important, so bring up the topic again or try a different approach.

Transportation Help
Walnut Place helps you take the worry out of transportation for your parent. Schedule a virtual visit today to find out how we help seniors maintain independence.