Having the ‘driving conversation’ with an older family member

Many family members or caregivers wonder what they should do if they think a loved one’s driving skills have diminished.

That’s the dilemma. Family members don’t know how to assess their loved one’s driving abilities. They dread approaching an older loved one to discuss whether he or she needs to modify his or her driving habits or even stop driving.

However, older drivers and their loved ones and caregivers need to take a realistic, ongoing inventory of the older driver’s skills and openly discuss them. Be prepared with observations and questions, listen with an open mind, and be prepared to offer possible transportation alternatives.

If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you might need to talk about driving with an older driver:

  • Does he or she get lost on routes that should be familiar?
  • Have you noticed new dents, scratches, or other damage to his or her vehicle?
  • Has he or she been warned by a police officer, about poor driving performance, or received a ticket for a driving violation?
  • Has he or she experienced a near miss or crash recently?
  • Has his or her doctor advised him or her to limit or stop driving due to a health reason?
  • Is he or she overwhelmed by signs, signals, road markings, and everything else he or she needs to focus on when driving?
  • Does he or she take any medication that might affect his or her capacity to drive safely?
  • Does he or she stop inappropriately and/or drive too slowly, preventing the safe flow of traffic?
  • Does he or she suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, glaucoma, cataracts, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes or other illnesses that may affect his or her driving skills?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions about an older driver, it is important to have caring, respectful conversations about his or her safety, as well as the safety of others on the road.