My elderly mother, who lives in Kentucky, prides herself on still driving at 75 years old. She’s always been fiercely independent. Lately, though, I get nervous when I’m a passenger in her car. She makes turns and merges at times that are, frankly, dangerous. When should I insist that she stop driving herself?
I think you know the answer to that question: the time is now.
Elinor Ginzler, Director of Livable Communities at AARP, identifies some of the signs that the time has arrived to convince your mother to turn in her car keys and allow herself to be chauffeured—for her own safety:
- She becomes easily distracted while driving.
- She increasingly hits the curb (I’m not talking about during parallel parking; we all do that!).
- She has difficulty merging into traffic, or she becomes visibly nervous when doing so.
- She demonstrates poor judgment when negotiating turns, particularly left turns.
- She isn’t obeying traffic signs and signals.
When you have “the talk,” you need to change your approach. You don’t want to “insist that she stop driving herself”; that will put her on the defensive, when what you want to do is tell her your observations—gently—and allow her to come up with the solution herself.
Suggest options available to her, such as friends or family nearby, public buses and subways, and even taxis. Look into services for seniors in her area; many communities offer free or low-cost buses to area shopping centers and doctor’s offices.
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