What to Do When Dad Should Not Be Driving

Do you remember when you first got a driver’s license?

It was both scary and exhilarating: the adulthood it implied, the freedom it offered, the awesome responsibility. That was a memorable moment in most individual’s lives.

Over the years I have met with many children of aging parents who expressed concerns that Mom or Dad was still driving. (For some reason, my recollection is that it was usually Dad who was the problem). This can be a big issue for both the kids and the parent. Children don’t know how to convince their parent that it is time to stop driving. They surely want to avoid a confrontation with their parent. And they understand that losing your license to drive is a big deal.

No one who drives wants that right taken away. Yes, it does seem like both a right and “rite” of adulthood. Losing it will be like returning to those pre-age 16 days, but without having the youthful ability to run and ride a bike. For the senior, giving up the car keys involves certain loss of freedom, and increased social isolation and dependency. We don’t want to burden relatives and friends every time we need to run an errand. And if we live in a rural area, we may have no other realistic transportation options. It’s no wonder that the thought of not being able to drive creates anxiety and depression.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine provides some helpful advice to caregiver children in convincing mom or dad to stop driving. The large study determined that doctors have a much greater influence than family in convincing an elderly parent to give up the keys. The study found that when doctors warn elderly patients about the risks of driving, there is a significant drop in serious crash injuries among those drivers.

As the number of older drivers surges, the study shows the importance of families and doctors working together to determine whether and when age-related health problems are bad enough to impair driving.

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