Insurance 101

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  • Senior Driving Safety

  • No one looks forward having the “Big Talk” with their parent or grandparent to say it’s time to hang up the keys. However, if you have an aging family member who shouldn’t be behind the wheel, here are a few tips for broaching this delicate topic with them.

    Know the warning signs
    If you don’t spend a lot of time with your senior parent or grandparent, keep an eye out for these warning signs:

    • new dents and scratches on their car, their garage door or their mailbox 
    • multiple near-accidents (although some will claim it wasn’t their fault) 
    • multiple traffic tickets or warnings 
    • complaints of missing street turns or unable to see traffic signs at the side of the road

    Don’t hesitate
    It’s natural to be anxious about telling your mom or dad they need to stop driving. However, they will be better off getting this advice from you and the rest of your family than receiving an order from the state motor vehicle department. As family members and people who know and love them, you and your relatives are the best candidates for telling your parent it’s time to give up driving.

    Broach the topic delicately
    Once you’ve determined the time has come for the driving discussion, try to work together with all of the adults in your family to come up with the best approach. 

    • Talk to them as you would about any other adult matter – do not treat the senior as a child. 
    • Try to use “I” to describe how you perceive the situation rather than being accusatory and saying things like “You did this”. For example, you might say, “I think you’re having a hard time seeing the road,” or “I worry about you having a terrible accident.” 
    • Remind them that they have a responsibility to others, as well. You might want to talk about how horrible they would feel if they killed or injured an innocent person because of a driving mistake.

    Typically, this is enough to convince a person that they shouldn’t be on the road. However, if your parent simply refuses to give up driving and they are still sharp of mind without any accidents, you might have to give in and allow him or her to keep driving for another year.

    On the other hand, if your parent has the beginnings of dementia, they should absolutely not be behind the wheel. If your loved one is suffering from the onset of dementia, you might have to sell the car and tell them it just isn’t available anymore or disable the car and tell them it no longer runs. This might seem cruel, but remember — it’s for the safety of your loved one and other drivers. 

    Be sensitive
    Although you might feel tempted to firmly tell your parent, “Hand over the keys!” this is probably not the best way to approach the matter. Many seniors fall into a deep depression after they stop driving because they feel a loss of freedom and control over their lives. 

    • Try to understand that this is going to be a tough transition for you loved one. 
    • Help them to come up with alternatives to driving. Discuss possible solutions for how they will get around. 
    • Maybe you, your siblings and other relatives could take turns driving them to their appointments and functions. 
    • Maybe mass transit is an option for them. 
    • You might also consider hiring a home-care agency that will transport your parent from point A to point B.

      Whatever you do, don’t just firmly lay down the law with your parent and banish him or her to their house forever. Put yourself in their shoes, be delicate and offer clear solutions.

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