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How to Get Your Senior Loved One to Give Up the Car Keys

Posted: 5/28/2020 8:00 AM by Interim HealthCare
There are a range of signs that it's time to take the car keys away from your senior loved one. No one wants that day to come, but in many cases, it's an inevitability. Vision or cognitive problems, actual driving issues on the road (including accidents, tickets, etcetera) and new or exacerbated road aggression can all be signs that it's time for Mom or Dad to give up the keys. 

This is understandably a traumatic experience for seniors. Who wants to give up their freedom? Particularly when you've spent your entire life preparing to enjoy retirement?

It's a tough pill to swallow, to be sure. But how you approach and transition your loved one can make a huge difference on your loved one's ability to hand over those keys.

These three pieces of advice can help you ease the transition and help your senior loved ones maintain their sense of independence:


1. Speak openly and candidly, but express empathy

Your loved ones don't want your pity, and they don't want you to beat around the bush, either. Chances are, Mom or Dad has also recognized the signs that their skills or health may not permit them to drive any longer. 

Rather than creating an adversorial situation, where you are "taking" the keys from your parent, taking the approach of a gentle, open conversation can increase the likelihood your older loved ones hand over the keys voluntarily. 

A great way to frame a conversation like this is to avoid dwelling on what your loved one is doing "wrong" (or is no longer doing right/well). Instead, gently acknowledge that it may "work out better" for your loved one if they had the flexibility that comes with alternative travel options (see #2 below). 

Stress the expenses and headaches that come along with car ownership, like maintenance, filling up gas, car registration and even buying new vehicles. No one wants to deal with those stresses if they don't have to! Although your loved one may realize the situation, they will at the very least appreciate your approach. That alone significantly raises the likelihood of a warm, successful meeting (where everyone walks away happy).

2. Stress the other ways your loved one can go out and about

We are living in a really unique time, with so many opportunities for seniors to get out shopping, meet friends and family and do all the things they used to do with a car...but safely. From Uber or Lyft (which are now in just about every corner of the United States) to senior shuttles and of course, public transportation, there are many ways for Mom or Dad to get themselves from Point A to Point B. 

Of course, you can also offer to drive your loved one to appointments, grocery stores and more. In fact, you may already be doing this to some extent. It can be difficult to serve as a personal taxi, though. Before you make an offer like this, be prepared for just how much work (and cost for gas and wear and tear on your car) this may entail.

Another option that offers more than transportation for your senior loved one, but also help around the house and with other daily tasks, is the support of a home health aide. Home health aides provide companionship and help with key tasks, while helping Mom or Dad stay happy, healthy and empowered at home. When you bring in a professional, you also get the peace of mind of knowing that a trained professional is helping your loved one when you are balancing other responsibilities. 


3. Speak with your loved one's doctor

If your loved one has medical conditions or cognitive decline, mental health issues or any other condition that may affect his or her ability to rationally engage in a discussion about driving (let alone hand over the keys), it may be prudent to involve your loved one's doctor in the conversation.

In fact, depending on your loved one (only you know your loved one best), you may want to enlist the doctor in opening up the conversation, leaving you out of it -- at least in the earliest stage. Often, parents or other older adults may hold the opinion of their doctor in the highest esteem. After all, they are trusted medical providers. The perspective and willingness to listen can sometimes be different than when discussing a topic with a child or other loved one. 

Whether or not the doctor gets involved in the discussion itself, it is important to raise any concerns with him or her as soon as possible. In some cases, a doctor may be needed to submit medical documentation that can forcibly take away a driver's license in some states (check with your local DMV for more information). Of course, in a vast majority of cases this isn't necessary, but there are some rare times when intervention is necessary. 


We proudly support your loved one and your family during times of transition.

As your older loved ones age, there are some changes and transitions that are more difficult to process than others. Whether it's taking away the car keys or needing extra help around the house, added medical care or other assistance, Interim HealthCare is here with you every step of the way. Our professional, compassionate home health and medical professionals will empower your loved ones while helping you provide the best possible care. We are here for you! To learn more, contact your nearest Interim HealthCare location.