Aging Parents: When to Stop Driving
As our parents age, their activity levels change and at some point, you may feel concern that your parents should no longer drive a car. The decision to take away the keys should not be made lightly. Age should not be the main reason you take away the keys, since everyone ages differently, but you should look at their overall ability. Current medications or illnesses such as diabetic neuropathy, seizure disorders, dementia, stroke and vision problems can also affect driving ability.
If you have concerns, create opportunities to ride with your parent in the car and observe how they drive. Don’t become a back-seat driver, which can cause agitation, but look for warning signs such as:
- Trouble turning or staying in the lanes
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Responding slowly to things happening around them
- Trouble reading signs
- Making small mistakes like not using a turn signal, confusing the gas and brake, etc.
Take notes after the ride about the warning signs you see. Then, it may be time to have a conversation with your parent about their driving. It may help to talk to other family members about what you’ve seen and get their support before starting a conversation with your parent or loved one.
If you do need to take their keys away, it’s important to come up with ways for your parent to stay social. Ask friends or family to pick them up and take them places, like church or the doctor’s office, and look for community-based transportation or congregate meal sites that will give them a chance to interact with other people.
Tiffany Reed, DO, is a geriatric specialist at Piedmont Senior Care and a member of the Cone Health Medical Group.