When to take the keys away from the elderly driver in your family

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One of the drawbacks of aging is losing one's independence. And a really tough hurdle for adult children of parents is taking away the car keys.

A driver’s license signifies more than the ability to drive a car; it is a symbol of freedom and self-sufficiency. Understandably, driving is not a privilege that anyone wants to relinquish. But safety must come first.

Pat Cook, a nurse with MediNurse, visits Fox 2 News to discuss when and how you should go about talking to an elderly loved one about driving, and offers the following tips:

• Plan ahead to have this life-changing discussion. Talk to your loved one’s physician for input and support.

• Be respectful. For many seniors, driving is an integral part of independence. Express your understanding of your loved one’s desires, while making it very clear that you have some concerns.

• Give specific examples. Outline concerns and be specific. Use phrases such as “you have a hard time turning your head,” or “you braked suddenly at stop signs the last time we drove.”

• Find strength in numbers. If other family members or close friends speak up about your loved one’s driving skills, it’s less likely to be taken as nagging. An impartial party, such as a doctor, can also help.

• Help find alternatives. Offer concrete help, such as researching transportation options or offering rides when possible. Call senior organizations and ask questions. Is there a nearby bus line, or can you establish an account with a taxi cab company?

• Understand the difficulty of the transition. Your loved one might experience a profound sense of loss when giving up driving. Don’t dismiss those feelings, and try to help with the transition as much as possible. For example, if it is safe, begin by suggesting that your loved one drive only during daylight hours. Then you can gradually help them to adjust to alternate modes of transportation.

• Talk to a home nursing agency to find out what options are available to help your loved one to get around.