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Chapter One: Suggesting to a Parent That He Shouldn't Drive Anymore
No parent wants to hand over the keys to the car once and for all. To do so not only limits their mobility but serves as a not-too-gentle reminder that as they age they will have to depend more and more on others to do the things they used to be able to do for themselves. It can leave them feeling demeaned and demoralized, as if they're little kids who have just had their favorite toys taken away. So when you think it might be in a parent's best interest to stop driving, try to do so by emphasizing three things. First, you're not drawing your own conclusion about his ability to drive, you're simply asking that he consult his doctor. Second, you're not accusing him of driving poorly, you're merely observing that it may be getting more difficult to steer clear of drivers who do. And third, you're acknowledging his need to maintain his active life and reinforcing the idea that there are other ways to ensure that he'll always be able to get around town with ease.
- Attitude: Be exceedingly respectful while at the same time stressing that this is something that needs to be looked into.
- Preparation: Numerous articles have been written on the subject. Read one or two, and if possible be prepared to cite an authority who is your parent's age or older. Also, research transportation alternatives that include shuttle buses for older adults, mass transit, and volunteers (including family members).
- Timing: Try holding this conversation just prior to your parent's next scheduled appointment with his physician.
- Behavior: Remain calm and firm, and keep the conversation from getting personal. Stress that this is a fact of life that all of us will face at some point, and the real issue is not whether or not the parent should drive but how best he can now get to wherever he wants to go.
This lifescript can be adapted to suggest to a parent that he should no longer be preparing his own meals, or that he should consider having part-time home health care.
- Don't make this a referendum on your parent's driving ability.
- Stress your concern for his safety in the face of reckless drivers on the road.
- Affirm his need to be mobile and as independent as possible. Offer to help with this.
- Don't let him defer the question to some vague time in the future.
- Remember you're not yet asking him to give his keys up; you're merely asking him to speak with his doctor.
- Try to go with him when he sees the doctor.
Copyright © 2002 by Third Millennium Press, Inc., Erik Kolbell and Stephen M. Pollan