When Should Your Loved Ones Stop Driving?

Tobias Financial Advisors proudly advises families across generations and often assists our clients with legacy planning. Many of our clients are challenged with how to provide the best care for their loved ones. Our team of advisors are often asked: when should my elderly loved one stop driving? The trouble is, age isn’t that great of a guideline for deciding when a loved one should park their car for good. There are unsafe drivers at any age, whether it be 35, 52, or 76.  

Earning your driver’s license is a cherished rite of passage in the United States. The ability to drive an automobile gives us the keys to the outside world. Driving gives us the opportunity to choose when and where we go and control over our own comings-and-goings. Giving up that privilege can be more than an inconvenience; for some senior citizens hanging up the car keys feels like a devastating loss of independence. It can also prove to be a challenge for those charged with their care. Despite these challenges, the risk in allowing a family member to get behind the wheel when they can no longer drive safely will be even more devastating should he or she be involved in a serious accident. For that reason, it’s important to be aware of any signs that your loved one may no longer be capable of driving safely. What are the signs that it might be time to have a conversation about your family member’s driving?

You notice dents, dings, and scratches on their car.

Look for damage to their car that is greater than light scratches from rogue shopping carts or normal wear-and-tear. Frequent fender-benders are a warning sign. A sudden increase in parking tickets or traffic violations can also be a red flag. Having a conversation about quitting driving may save their lives or the lives of the drivers with whom they share the road.

They doze off throughout the day or during conversations.

Certain medications or medical conditions may cause drowsiness at inappropriate times. This can be downright dangerous if this happens while your loved one is cruising on the highway.

Forgetting things becomes the norm.

We all forget things. This isn’t always a cause for alarm. Don’t sound the alarm if your parent starts forgetting where they put their keys but do dig a little deeper if they suddenly forget how to get to their dentist’s office when they’ve been under their care for the last twenty years.

Vision problems.

Everyone experiences gradual decreases in vision quality as they age. If your loved one has recently experienced a drastic change in the prescription of their eyewear, it may be time to visit the DMV for a vision test.

Some senior citizens experience degraded night vision. Watch for signs or comments that they are uncomfortable driving at night.

If you notice them bumping into things or consistently not noticing objects in their peripheral vision, they may be experiencing extinction of certain regions in their field of vision. Suggest that they visit their doctor soon.

Life after driving.

Your loved one has relinquished their license. Now what? For family members and caregivers of senior citizens who no longer drive, the conversation about quitting driving is just the start. The logistics of doctor’s appointments, everyday errands, and social events can be overwhelming.

Depending on where your loved one has retired, local taxis, public transit, or shuttles operated by their local senior center can be lifesavers. Do some research based on what’s available in their area and what your loved one will feel most comfortable with.

We’ve seen successful transitions aided by ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber. If they’re not already familiar, try introducing the app to your loved one and show them how to use it. These apps are easy to use and inexpensive. They may even save money on the cost of car ownership.

Go easy.

When the time to talk driving arises, be patient and listen to your loved one’s concerns. Try not to use accusatory language and practice what you’ll say with other family members, friends, or a trusted financial advisor before you address your elderly loved one in person. The retirement years bring many transitions. Leaving one’s career, losing friends and spouses, and tending to the health concerns that come with growing older are just a few of the stressors your loved one may be facing. Your loved one may, understandably, be reluctant to give up their car keys for good. Losing the privilege to drive may feel like a major assault to their independence. Have the conversation about driving as soon as you can, ideally long before their driving is a concern. This is a great topic to discuss during the conversation you and your loved one should have about your living will. Planting the seed, and potentially even putting something in writing, can go a long way when the driving question must be answered years down the road.

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