Talking with an older person about their driving is often difficult. Most of us delay that talk until the person’s driving has become what we believe to be dangerous. At that point, conversations can be tense and awkward for everyone involved. But there are things you can say and do to make those conversations more productive and less tense.
Here are some things that might help when having the talk.
- Be prepared.
Learn about local services to help someone who can no longer drive. Identify the person’s transportation needs.
- Avoid confrontation.
Use “I” messages rather than “You” messages. For example, say, “I am concerned about your safety when you are driving,” rather than, “You’re no longer a safe driver.”
- Stick to the issue.
Discuss the driver’s skills, not his or her age.
- Focus on safety and maintaining independence.
Be clear that the goal is for the older driver to continue the activities he or she currently enjoys while staying safe.
- Offer to help the person stay independent.
For example, you might say, “I’ll help you figure out how to get where you want to go if driving isn’t possible.”
- Be positive and supportive.
Recognize the importance of a driver’s license to the older person. Understand that he or she may become defensive, angry, hurt, or withdrawn. You might say, “I understand that this may be upsetting” or “We’ll work together to find a solution.”
Learning how to understand and influence older drivers will help you support their needs, as well as find community resources that can help put your older-driver plan into action. If you have decided to initiate a conversation with an older loved one about driving safely, take these three steps:
- Collect information,
- Develop a plan of action, and
- Follow through on the plan.
Visit How to Understand and Influence Older Drivers for a step-by-step discussion to addressing this difficult but common problem for families.
If an older adult is still safe to drive but may need assistive devices, learn how to adapt a motor vehicle to accommodate the unique needs of an older driver and how to discuss it with your loved one.
AARP has a pre-recorded online workshop titled, We Need to Talk, which will help you assess your loved one’s driving skills and provide tools to help you have conversations about when it’s time to limit or stop driving. Check it out here: https://www.aarp.org/membership/benefits/auto/we-need-to-talk/
We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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