Saturday, December 29, 2012

It’s time to take the car keys from my elderly parent—where do I begin?

By Bob Gregory

In my last post, “My parent is moving to a Senior Facility, is it time to take the car keys?” I gave you some signs and reasons it may be time to take the car keys.  If you are reading this post, I must assume your parent needs to give up the keys!  Before we discuss where to begin, I hope you are taking this decision very serious as your parent sure will.  When we first begin our life as young adults, we work toward owning our own home, a great car and having our dream job.  As we reach the later years of our life, we retire from our jobs, we sell our home in favor of a Senior Facility and we eventually give up our cars.  If you have an elderly parent, you know none of these are surrendered peacefully!  Most people “retire” because they can no longer work and selling the house and car is a sure sign we are nearing the end of our time on earth.  Be sure giving up the car is the right decision and if so, then be committed to get rid of it!

Here are some ideas that may help:

  1. I hope you took my advice and took a ride with your parent; this is the best way to evaluate their ability and it is certainly the best place to begin the conversation!  Begin by asking your parent to evaluate their ability and what happened on your evaluation ride.  If they feel they did a good job—and they probably will—then question them about items you noted during the ride.  Point out the dangers of the problem areas and discuss reasons they may have had problems such as diminished sight, hearing, lack of motion and memory issues.  You should also stress you are not only concerned for their safety but for the safety of fellow drivers, passengers and bystanders.
Nyckelring (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. Seldom do parents listen to their children regarding giving up the car keys so do not be discouraged if your discussion does not result in the surrender of the keys.  Your next course of action is to involve the professionals.  Have your parent evaluated by their physician and their optometrist/ophthalmologist for a “professional” opinion.  These evaluations should confirm your own findings and hopefully, an outside “professional” opinion should result in the surrender of the keys!

  1. If your parent is still obstinate after discussions and evaluations, then challenge them to retake the driving test and eye exam.  Your promise to them if they comply is to drop the subject of giving up the keys if they can pass the driving and eye exam.  I personally have never heard of a parent taking the challenge but it should put you in a much stronger position to insist they give up the keys.

  1. Discuss the legal considerations of continuing to drive.  A lawsuit for an at-fault accident not covered by insurance can potentially take retirement funds your parent has saved.  Your parent’s insurance agent or attorney can certainly back you up on this point.  You may find your parent can no longer be insured if you provide the insurance company with a letter from the doctor as to their physical or mental ability to drive.  Please get legal advice before releasing any medical information you may have access!  This is also a good time to discuss the moral obligation to avoid endangering others; on this point, you may want to involve your parent’s pastor or religious advisor.

If you feel your parent or others are in immediate danger, hide the keys or take the car!  Part of your parent’s fear of giving up the car keys is becoming a “shut-in”.  You can help this fear by having a plan for alternative transportation.  Be smart and do not include yourself as their only alternative, you know how you have disappointed them in the past and if you do not know, they will certainly remind you!  Introduce your parent to a trusted cab company, driver at the senior facility (if they are living in one) and involve other family members willing to help.  Make sure you express to your parent you are taking the car out of love and concern and this move will help you keep them for many years to come!

For me, I went through all of the above before convincing my mother to allow me to sell the car!  She was pleased to receive the money as she feared needing support from her children.  This is not an easy chore and in some respects, it was more difficult than convincing her she needed an Assisted Living Facility.  I wish you good luck for your sake, your parent’s and all the rest of us out there on the highway!

If you find you need an Assisted Living Facility, Nursing Home or any other type of Senior Facility, I hope you will consider

If you would like to contribute your thoughts and ideas, please leave them in our comment section. We want to hear them. Helping people care for themselves or their loved ones is what we care about. 

We look forward to reading yours.

Bob Gregory is an advocate for Seniors and is one of the founders of At, we are dedicated to helping families get the Elder Care help they need without having to provide their personal information! If find you need an assisted living facility or other type of senior facility, please consider

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