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Published By Nuala Duignan on October 01, 2016

An elderly loved one may resist when a family member raises concerns about his or her driving because he or she wants to remain independent as long as possible. For an elderly driver, surrendering the car keys signifies a major lifestyle change, affecting who he or she sees and which activities he or she pursues. An older person may feel devastated and afraid of losing control and their identity. Therefore, it is important to consider his or her viewpoint and understand his or her concerns about handing over the keys.

Prepare for the discussion with your loved one by approaching it with realistic expectations. You most likely will have several discussions on this topic, and the transitional process will take time. Follow these tips to help you prepare for your initial talk with the elderly driver:

  • Avoid coming on too strong. Rather, initiate the discussion with a question “How are you doing with your driving?”
  • Don’t immediately offer solutions (“I’m sure Jane could drive you to the grocery store.”) or reassurances (“Everything will be OK.”). These may offer temporary comfort, but they won’t help the elderly driver express his or her fears regarding the transition.  They will also sound patronising.
  • Instead, use reflective listening—rephrase what the person said—which conveys and encourages the senior to discuss his or her feelings.
  • Help your loved one identify the pros and cons of elderly driving vs. not driving. He or she may discover there are benefits to not driving, or realize the consequences that could result if he or she continues.
  • Anticipate the practical problems that likely will result if your elderly loved one quits driving.

Unless the elderly driver suffers from dementia or is otherwise incapacitated, respect his or her right to make life decisions, with your reassurance and support. Also, being active in your loved one's life will reassure him or her that not driving their car does not have to lead to isolation and boredom.

How have you alleviated your loved one’s anxiety about giving up driving?

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