Generally, no individual plans for a
time when he or she will no longer be able to drive. In fact,
your loved one probably assumes that he or she will know when to
stop driving, and at the same time, he or she probably believes
that some of his or her friends arenít safe drivers.
Most individuals, however, never realize that it is time to stop
driving. Instead, when faced with the lack of access to
essential services, loss of social independence, reduced
mobility, and isolation that come as a result of restricted or
terminated driving privileges, an older adult often becomes
defensive of his or her ability and right to drive. Even
individuals who realize that driving may pose a threat to
themselves and others struggle through the question of whether
or not to give up the wheel.
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Did you know that older drivers have higher rates of
fatal crashes, based on miles driven than any other group except
young drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway
Safety (IIHS)? The high death rate is due in large part to their
frailty. Older people are less likely to survive an injury than
It isnít unusual for adult child caregivers to be faced with
this dilemma: Mom or dad is no longer safe to drive, for reasons
that could include physical or mental deterioration. But they refuse
to stop driving, and wonít give up their car keys. This can be a
tricky thing for an adult child to navigateóand losing driving
privileges can be devastating for an elderly person.
losing their independence, and that can be very hard to accept.
However, when your parentís life is on the lineónot to mention those
of other people on the roadóthere may be no getting around it.
conversation with your parent is the place to start. If you present
it the right way, you may not face the problem of your parent
refusing to let go of the keys.
Here are a few tips for doing just
Bring your medical documentation. It can be tempting
to bring up the latest scary driving experience you had with the
parent and how worried you are, but that could just make them more
defensive. Instead, stick to the factsóyour momís failing vision,
your dadís chemotherapy, or whatever mental or physical condition is
impairing the parentís driving. Have the medical documentation
Offer Alternatives. Losing the car keys means losing
independenceóand that can be scary for anyone. If you can present
alternatives, it may help your parent accept the decision. Look into
community ride-sharing organizations or transportation services for
seniors, the public transportation routes to places where your
parents often go, or have a plan in place for friends and family to
provide rides. Make sure your parent knows they can still get out of
the house and do the things they love.
Under the Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA), senior citizens must have access to
basic transportation services. That means that any city providing
public transportation in general must also offer paratransit or
transportation services for people with disabilities. This service
must be equivalent to the public transportation services available
to the public at large in terms of days and hours of service, as
well as response times. It could be worth it to look into the
options available for the elderly in your area.
to Do When Your Elderly Parent Won't Give Up the Car Keys
An average of 586 older adults are injured every day in
crashes. Of course,
you can prepare as well as possible, and the conversation still may
not go as you hoped. You could just take the parentís keys anyway;
however, this could damage your relationship with your parent, and
it could also have legal consequences. There have been documented
cases of the parent reporting their car stolen after an adult child
took the keys away. If you want to avoid a messy situation, here are
a few things to try next.
Ask your parentís doctor for help.
If the doctor, optometrist, or ophthalmologist tells your parent
they are no longer safe to drive, your parent may be more likely to
listen. The doctor can also fill in a medical status report that can
be given to the DMV in your state.
Talk to your DMV. You can
go to your DMV directly and ask them to give your parent a new
vision test, paper test, and even a driving test with an inspector.
You may need the medical report from your doctor. The inspector can
then determine whether your parent is still roadworthy. You donít
have to wait until the parentís driverís license is up for renewal;
you can make this request at any time. In some states, you can ask
the DMV not to release the name of the person who requested the
Ask your attorney for help. There could be serious
financial and legal consequences if your parent gets into an
accident and injures someone else. You could ask the family lawyer
about the dangers to your parentsí estate and your inheritance
should that happen. This might be more persuasive to your parents
than your request alone.
It can be difficult to ask your
parent to give up the car keysóand it can be a major blow to them to
lose that independence. However, it may be necessaryóboth for your
parentís safety and the safety of others on the road. Talk to your
lawyer, doctor, or the DMV for help if you need toóand hopefully you
can keep your parent and other drivers safe.
Medicare and Transportation
You may be able to get
non-emergency ambulance transportation if such transportation is
needed to or diagnose your health condition and the use of any other
transportation method could endanger your health.
cases, Medicare may cover limited, medically necessary,
non-emergency ambulance transportation if you have a written order
from your doctor stating that ambulance transportation is necessary
due to your medical condition. Even though a situation isnít an
emergency, ambulance transportation may be medically necessary to
get you to a hospital or other health facility.