If you’re concerned about a loved one’s ability to continue driving, addressing it sooner rather than later could save their life and potentially the lives of others. While it might be awkward and perhaps painful to have that chat, it’s a conversation that does need to happen.

You need to be aware that for your parent or the senior you’re concerned for, it may mean yet another reminder of their ageing and increasing inability to do less of the things they used to do when they were younger.

The car keys can represent freedom of choice and where someone lives. And the perceived threat of losing the ability to drive or hand over the keys can be devastating.

Seniors can face so many losses as they get older, from losing friends to the ability to do daily tasks. So, resistance to stop driving could be quite strong. The gradual loss of control over certain things in their lives can make some people rigidly guard what remains within their grasp.

But the chat with your loved one about their driving needs to take place. Here are a few pointers about tackling this pointy issue:

  1. Plan ahead – think about how you’re going to approach the chat. Don’t just jump in and hope for the best. Thinking about the situation from the driver’s point of view and what the ability to drive means to them.
  2. Remember that this conversation will be a process. And it’s likely to be a very charged issue so the chat may take place over some time, in stages. The cessation of driving probably won’t happen immediately.
  3. It’s also worth keeping in mind that it’s not up to you to have your way and get the driver to stop driving immediately, even if you think it’s for the best. Unless the person is mentally incapacitated, you need to respect their right to make decisions about their own life. All you can do is provide support and input.
  4. One way to put yourself in the other person’s shoes is to give up your own car keys for a week and experience first-hand the challenges and changes to your own life. This will help you consider the practical and emotional issues your loved one will face without a car.
  5. When you decide to bring the subject up, wait for a quiet time with no commitments pending so you have plenty of space and time to discuss the issue.
  6. Introduce the subject gently and try to avoid coming on too strong. This will start the conversation off on the wrong foot. Pushing your loved one won’t help.
  7. There could be an opportunity to introduce the subject if the person has perhaps received a traffic ticket or a scare while driving. You might want to thoughtfully enquire about how they are dealing with it and how their driving is going.
  8. Handle objections to stopping driving with open ears. Let them talk it out. If you think their driving is erratic or unsafe, chances are they know it too. You could offer temporary measures like driving them to appointments and other engagements.
  9. Find out if there are any issues that may be affecting the person’s driving like their sight, illness, medication etc. These should definitely be investigated.
  10. Helping your loved one to explore other transport options such as lifts from friends or how and when to catch the bus will help, as will encouraging interests they might enjoy closer to home.

There are great government subsidised transport services for your loved one once they decide to hand over their cars keys.