Is It Time for Your Loved One to Retire From Driving?

When is it time for an older adult to consider limiting or giving up driving? This is one of the hardest conversations someone will have with their loved one. For many individuals, these discussions will be had with the very person who taught them how to drive. So you can imagine how difficult and uncomfortable of a situation it is for all parties involved. Here, we offer some tips to help you decide the right time to initiate these chats and the best way to execute them.

Understanding the Situation

It’s important to understand what driving means to older adults. Asking someone to consider limiting or giving up driving isn’t just about the act of driving — it’s what that action represents. Driving is a symbol of independence, self-worth and one’s ability to care for themselves and manage their own lives. Freedom — it’s the reason teenagers are so anxious to get their driver’s licenses. Imagine how it felt the first time you were alone behind the wheel. You chose what was playing on the radio and whether you would stop at the gas station for a soda and snack on the way to your destination. Now, imagine how it would feel to have that sense of autonomy removed after enjoying it for most of your life. That’s what you’re asking an older adult to consider giving up.

Proceeding with Positivity

There’s no easy way to discuss the possibility of limiting or giving up driving. But there are some ways to approach the situation to give it the best chance for success and result in a positive outcome.

  • The conversation should take place with someone the older adult trusts, respects and feels will act in a way that reflects their best interests. This is often a spouse, adult child, primary physician or caregiver. Do not initiate the conversation in a form of an intervention, where many family members gather together to discuss the situation and express their concern and input. This could lead the older adult to feel ambushed, defensive and caught off-guard, making it difficult to have a meaningful dialogue.
  • It is better to discuss the idea of limiting or giving up driving through a series of smaller, casual conversations rather than one serious conversation where an immediate decision needs to be made. Some situations that may serve as opportunities to discuss changes to one’s driving habits include:
    • Changes to an older adult’s mental or physical health or medications that may limit one’s ability to drive safely
      • Car crashes or “close calls” in which the older adult is involved
      • Getting lost while driving somewhere
      • Changes in an older adult’s driving habits, such as not driving at night or avoiding high-traffic areas.
  • Before having this conversation with an older adult, spend time observing and monitoring the situation. One of the best ways to have a positive conversation about one’s ability to continue driving is to present the older adult with facts and observations rather than opinions and assumptions. Those who notice potential warning signs or are concerned about one’s ability to drive should ask to accompany the older adult to various destinations, keeping in mind the frequency of minor mistakes and noting patterns that develop. This allows the loved one to assess the situation and help determine solutions that are best for their loved one.
  • Those who are having this conversation with an older adult should remain calm, positive, understanding and supportive. As difficult of a conversation as this is for the loved one, it is even harder for the older adult. It’s important to validate their feelings and make sure they feel heard, respected and acknowledged.

What are the Warning Signs?

There is no one-size-fits-all checklist to determine when it is time for someone to limit or give up driving. One’s age has no bearing on their ability to drive, as everyone’s aging journey is unique. However, certain warning signs may signify that it is time to pay closer attention to an older adult’s driving habits and start thinking about the need for a conversation. These include:

  • Disorientation or forgetfulness — something that is noticeable or frequent or when cognitive impairment starts to become a personality trait
  • Delayed responses to unexpected situations
  • Becoming easily distracted, especially when they are driving
  • Getting lost in familiar areas
  • Driving for a long period of time in the wrong direction
  • Scrapes or dents on the car
  • Swerving between lanes
  • Driving over curbs
  • Difficulty making left-hand turns
  • Driving too fast or too slowly
  • Incorrect signaling

More serious warning signs that may signify the need for more immediate action may include:

  • Confusing the gas pedal with brake pedal
  • Inability to understand street signs or highway exit signs
  • Failing to stop at red lights or stop signs

If anyone is unsure about whether it’s time to consider asking an older adult to limit or give up driving, the best thing to do is consult a medical professional. Not only will they be able to help make the best determination for what is the right course of action at the time, but they also will be a valuable resource in the future as the situation evolves. They may even recommend that the older adult take a comprehensive driving evaluation, which tests cognition, vision, reaction time, strength, balance, coordination and ability to recognize and respond to hazards and safely execute driving maneuvers. Those who participate in this evaluation may receive feedback on how to improve their driving skills. This could include recommendations for equipment, such as wide range mirrors or pedal extensions, that could help improve one’s ability to drive safely.

How Can You Help?

Once an older adult has made the difficult decision to limit or give up driving, they may experience many negative emotions, from depression and anger to anxiety and loneliness. A loved one can help combat these symptoms by helping the older adult consider how they are going to continue to engage in a high-quality of life filled with independence and socialization. This is where living in an Upside home truly makes a difference.

At Upside, our Upside Managers act as personal concierges for our members. They are available every day to help connect older adults with various services and activities to help them live a fulfilling, individualized lifestyle. Many times, older adults are reluctant to retire from driving because they don’t want to give up their independence or feel like a burden to their adult children or grandchildren. At Upside, we offer a variety of solutions to help older adults maintain their freedom and feelings of self-worth. For those whose loved ones are looking to skip the trip to the grocery store, an Upside Manager can provide them with meal delivery services to get their shopping list sent to their doorstep. Does your older adult want to attend an evening show or meet some friends for dinner but is uncomfortable driving at night? Maybe they have a doctor’s appointment and a loved one is not available to take them. Regardless of the situation, their trusted Upside Manager can arrange a ride for them, track their trip and ensure that they get to and from their destination safely. The best part is all of these services are handled through Upside, which means any additional costs are added to the member’s monthly bill. So there is no need to download any application or insert credit card information.

Those who choose Upside know that they’re in good hands and are living a life filled with convenience and independence — whatever that means for them. Does this sound like the perfect place for you or a loved one to call home? Contact Upside today to find out more about how we’re redefining independent living for older adults.

Upside Corporate Headquarters

6365 NW 6TH Way, Suite 200

Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309