Saturday, May 8, 2010

Is Your Aging Parent's Driving Driving You Crazy?

My 85-year-old friend Joe saddled up to me.

"Alice, guess what? I got my driver's license."

I knew about Joe's macular degeneration. How could he pass the eye exam in Washington State?

"I'm lucky," he said with a twinkle in his eye. "My cousin is an eye doctor practicing in Arizona. He signed off and I can drive." He added: "Don't tell my daughter!"

Elders will do the darndest things to continue driving. Taking away their car keys seems like cruel and unusual punishment. Yet at some point the safety factor overrules, and we must act.

Is it time for you to have the "Driving Talk"? Consider these tips.

1. Embark on a series of discussions with your parent, advises the writers of "Your Aging Parents: The American Bar Association Guide to Legal, Financial and Healthcare Issues, 2009.' Ask them, "When do you think someone should give up driving?" and "What are alternatives (carpools, public transportation, having a child drive, etc.)? Talk, too, about your own experiences with rude drivers and traffic, and the increasing difficulty so many people have in navigating the roadways.

2. As the talks progress, use "I-messages," such as "I feel worried," "I'm concerned," "I'm scared," says Dennis Gibson in "The Sandwich Years." Instead of "You're dangerous on the road," say, "I'm concerned about your safety because you've had fender benders and I don't want you to be injured!" And acknowledge your parent's feelings of disappointment in thinking about giving up driving.

3. If all else fails, ask a professional for help. Elderlaw Attorney Rajiv Nagaich, of "Aging Options" says that a neutral party, such as a physician or a geriatric care manager, often can help. "Let a care manager have a heart to heart," he says, adding that an intervention by a caring third party can avoid a winless power struggle.

As a last resort, the physician or family can report the senior negligent driver to the department of licensing. Contact your department of licensing, as laws vary by state.

Perhaps you've received some good advice on this subject. Tell us about it.


  1. The comments on elder drivers struck a chord with me, as the subject is one about which I have written a lot. I'm a former personal injury attorney who represented the victims of accidents, some caused by dangerous older drivers. I'm also a nurse and understand the difficulty of the issue of driving and control with aging persons. I wrote a short, 50 page book, How to Handle a Dangerous Older Driver, in which I describe a step by step plan for assessing driving and getting an aging parent to give up the keys. The mini book is available on my website at, and on Amazon, in print, downloadable PDF or audio formats.

  2. Thank you for this resource which you are providing readers on such an important subject. Alice Kalso,


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