Seniors and Driving…when do we give up our car?

One of the most difficult conversations my husband had with his father was trying to persuade him not to drive anymore.

We had the warning signs, dents and scraps on the vehicle and sides of the garage. He had macular degeneration and we could tell his eyes were failing.

At one point the family doctor suggested he stay close to home and for the most part he did. Our fear was that he was close to a school and had to back out of his garage over the sidewalk where young children walked to and from school.

He tended to do things quickly and what if he backed over a child? We felt it would be our fault if we didn’t suggest it was time to give up the keys.

His wife had also told our daughter (not us) that after cataract surgery he told the eye doctor he had a ride home. He did not. He drove home across the city and bounced off the median a number of times. That told us his decision-making wasn’t up to par.

Finally he went for an experimental treatment on his eyes, which did not work, and the doctor told him he could not drive anymore.

Bob had driven him to the appointment and had spoken to the doctor beforehand so knew the results. On the drive home Bob asked his dad what the doctor had told him.

“I’m fine to drive now,” was the answer. Bob said, “That’s not what I heard.” His dad argued so Bob said “Let’s turn around and both ask the doctor so we know the correct answer.”

There was a pause and his dad said “drive me home.” The good news was he did not drive again.

We knew how much his pride had been hurt. It meant loosing independence. We tried to be available when needed and drive his parents places because, like most seniors of that age, they simply refused to take cabs, UPBER or LYFT. “Too expensive.”

Now is the time to start the conversation with your future caregivers as well as your partner or spouse about how you will decide when it is no longer safe to drive.

According to the AARP here are ten signs it’s time to limit or stop driving:

  1. Almost crashing, or close calls
  2. Finding dents, scrapes on the car, fences, mailboxes and garage doors at home
  3. Getting lost, especially in familiar places
  4. Having trouble following traffic signals, road signs and payment markings
  5. Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving foot from brake to gas, consuming the two pedals
  6. Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps
  7. Experiencing road rage or causing other drives to honk or complain
  8. Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving
  9. Having a hard time turning around to check the rear mirror while backing up or changing lanes
  10. Receiving multiple traffic tickets or warnings from law enforcement

Some of these signs can apply to younger people or people with medical conditions too. It’s not just seniors that have issues with driving. One would hope we will self-police but if our judgement is comprimised we just aren’t capable. We might not notice our reflexes are slower as well as our thinking.

From the time dad was 70, he often had the conversation with my brother and I that we were to tell him when we thought he should no longer drive. He didn’t say it just once he repeated it over many years. We plan to do the same.

We noticed he was driving slower and sometimes holding up traffic. He told us if he became tired he would just pull over and have a nap then continue his journey. My mom thought that was just fine. At 89 years old he hadn’t had an accident and yet we decided it was time “to have the talk.”

My brother said he would do it. My husband and I took a meal out to my parents the next day. When we sat down for dinner, dad looked straight at me and said “Ken says I shouldn’t drive anymore.” I looked at him and said “I agree.” He then looked at Bob and repeated the same statement and Bob answered that he too agreed.

Dad looked sad and then we continued to enjoy the meal. He never drove again yet we kept his vehicle as it was easy for them to get in and out of and he could pay for the gas and upkeep and that seemed to help a little.

So begin to have the conversation with your future caregivers as well as your children or trusted friends. Give them permission to tell you when they feel it is no longer safe for you to drive.

I have researched the cost of driving as opposed to taking cabs etc. It shows that if you are only going to be going about 9655 kilometres (6000 miles) a year it is cheaper to cab it or use public transportation.

Here are some of the things to consider.

Add up:

  1. Cost of the care/5 years
  2. Cost of maintenance
  3. Cost of insurance
  4. cost of taxes etc.

Divide this number by the number of kilometres/miles travelled and that will equal the true cost per mile of owning a car.

I watched as both sets of our parents aged and they really didn’t drive all that far. So for them, it would have made sense to use other modes of transportation. It certainly would have been easier on my husband and I.

One friend, whose parents lived in the country, hired a young student to take her parents into town twice a week for groceries, appointments and a meal out. This deal was beneficial to both.

We hired a service to pick up our mom for her weekly hair appointment. What we couldn’t convince our parents to do was hire a cab for other trips.

“It’s too expensive!” they would say. Yet for me to drive out to my parents, a 40 minutes drive, pick them up take them here and there, drop them off and then drive home, didn’t seem to phase them.

I never minded, yet sure found it tiring. It also ended up taking most of my day. Let’s not do that to our kids. Let’s start talking to each other and maybe take a cab a few places just to get used to it.

If we have to give up driving we have multiple options. Let’s be wise enough to identify them now.

Published by Joan Craven

Joan Craven has been a

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1 Comment

  1. It is the hardest conversation of all. I’m kind of crossing my fingers for self driving cars. Perhaps my son could program it for my trips, because I suspect that might be technically challenging:)

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