For the past few weeks, I’ve been talking with you about safe driving, driving retirement, and talking with aging parents about stopping driving. Well today, I’m gonna share what to do if your aging parent is no longer safe to drive, but is refusing to stop driving. This is incredibly stressful, but my tips in this video will help!
From time to time, I run across situations in which older adults flat out refuse to stop driving, even after all of the assessments have been completed, their doctor tells them they are NO LONGER SAFE to drive, and their driver’s license has been revoked.
These situations are really stressful, leaving you in a tight bind. You don’t want to be in conflict with your aging parent (you have dreams of living in a Hallmark aging story), and at the same time, you don’t want your parent putting themselves and others at risk of harm.
You might find yourself to be super stressed out and feeling powerless in this situation. If your parent is dangerous on the road and not stopping driving, but argues with you every step of the way, you might even find yourself angry with me and my recommendations. You might catch yourself yelling at me and my tips saying, "Well, I've tried that and nothing is working." So if you find yourself in this space, please take some time for yourself and give yourself a little grace.
There is clearly no simple solution and this is one of the most difficult challenges families are faced with. I mean, you're probably scared and angry, feel powerless over your parent, and you might even be reaching the point of hopelessness thinking nothing will work. Well I want you to know that you're not alone and that while this is difficult, you will get through it. It might not be pretty, but you will get through it.
If you find yourself in this space, please take some time for yourself and give yourself a little grace. There's clearly no simple solution- this is one of the most difficult challenges families are faced with. You’re probably scared, angry, and feel powerless over your parent, and you may even be reaching the point of hopelessness. I want you to know that you're not alone, and that while this is difficult, you will get through this. It might not be pretty, but you will get through this.
Now, let’s get started...
Tip #1: A Professional Driving Assessment
A professional assessment to assess your parent’s driving skills can be helpful if you and your aging parent are at an impasse when it comes to stopping driving.
This can be an expensive option, but it can be very helpful for a professional to share their concerns with your parent AFTER an assessment and take on the task of telling your parent that they are no longer safe to drive.
If only it were that simple!
Tip #2: File a request for driver review with the department of motor vehicles (DMV)
If your parent is outright refusing to do a professional driving assessment and you are concerned about your parent's safety on the road, in some states, YOU can file a request for driver review with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or Department of Driving Services (DDS)- different states have different names. What’s important to know about this is that it might take a while for the DMV or DDS to respond and in the meantime, your parent may be at risk or putting others at risk.
Leading to the next tip...
Tip #3: Make an appointment with your parent’s primary care provider
Another option is to make an appointment with your parent’s primary care provider and let the provider know what’s going on. If the provider believes that your parent may be dangerous on the road, the provider might also write a letter to the DMV/DDS. Based on this letter, the DMV/DDS might demand that your parent have a professional driving assessment, or may even revoke their license.
Now... say your parent has had a professional driving assessment and has met with their primary care doctor and every professional they encounter recommends that they STOP DRIVING! Maybe their license has been revoked and insurance has dropped them!
But, your parent isn’t listening, maybe your parent says,
And, as a result, they keep on driving!
Tip #4: Remove Access To The Car
In these situations, I’ve known families to disable the car, deactivate or hide the keys, store the car at a friend’s house, loan the car to a family member who needs it for work, or even say the car is in the repair shop.
That gets the car or the keys out of the house (MAYBE!)
But, even after all of this, your aging parent may continue to ask about the car, rummage for keys, accuse family members of stealing the car, be super argumentative, and the list goes on.
To make matters more challenging, many families need to use the car to drive their aging parent to appointments. Maybe your other parent (the one who is safe to drive) needs to use the car, which means that the parent who is told not to drive is constantly exposed to the thing they cannot have! It can feel like you’re in a constant battle.
Tip #5: Call Your Local Police Department
So, if things escalate and your parent continues to drive, it’s ok, even encouraged, to call your local police department.
Safety Tip! If your parent takes the car out for a spin and you do call the police, it can be helpful to explain that your aging parent is struggling with (fill in the blank medical problem- “dementia”) and has been told not to drive, but is having a hard time coming to terms with this. Giving the police information about your parent’s situation can help them to approach your parent respectfully and maintain safety for everyone.
It’s important to acknowledge that driving is a really complicated issue for many people with aging parents. Because of this, I created a free Caring for Aging Parents Roadmap to Safe Driving here or simply click the image below!
Lots of love to you and your family!
Dr. Regina Koepp
PS: If this episode/blog was helpful...
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I'm a Stanford trained, Board Certified Clinical Psychologist specializing with older adults and families! I'm an Assistant Professor at Emory University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, and a staff Psychologist at the Atlanta VA Health Care System. I'm a mom of two little kids and a daughter to aging parents.
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