For most of us, it’s an inevitable, if extremely difficult, conversation: How to talk to aging parents or relatives about whether they’re still able to drive. In a poll conducted by Caring.com and the National Safety Council, 36 percent of respondents said that talking to their parents about the need to stop driving would be more difficult than talking to them about funeral plans. Liberty Mutual’s National Conversation Drive encourages families to have frank discussions about safe senior driving, and provides resources to make those conversations easier. “Talking to your elderly parents about driving safety can be very difficult,” said Liberty Mutual’s Dave Melton. “But most seniors expect their adult children to have these conversations with them.” Here’s how to approach this sensitive topic.
Be sure. Take an opportunity to carefully observe your loved one’s driving abilities. Does he have slow reaction times? Has she been racking up frequent tickets or warnings? Does his car have an increasing number of dents or scrapes? If you feel anxious riding as a passenger — or would feel anxious about allowing your children to do so — it’s time to have the talk.
Come prepared. Before the conversation, look into alternative transportation solutions and be ready to discuss those options. Taking the bus, for example, can be not only safer, but also quicker, cheaper, and more convenient. The Independent Transportation Network provides a comprehensive list of alternate transportation methods and volunteer driver organizations across the country.
Ask, don’t tell. Start the conversation with a question: “Hey, Mom, how do you feel when you’re driving?” Listen to what she has to say before telling her what you think. Chances are she’ll have some concerns of her own. By using those as a launching pad, you’re less likely to come across as either judgmental or as having already formed your own opinions.
Avoid an argument. Try framing the conversation in a positive light, saying that you’d like to help preserve your relative’s independence and ability to get around. Offer your thoughts diplomatically. Let your loved one know you’re concerned with her safety or that of others. Be respectful, kind and patient, and don’t preach. Remember that in many cases this person has traditionally been in a position of advising you. In most cases, you’ll need more than one conversation in order to come to an agreement that makes you both feel comfortable.
Enlist help. If you’re met with resistance, try bringing in a third party. Suggest an evaluation from a drivers’ rehab specialist, professional driving teacher or trusted family doctor.
For more on senior driving and Liberty Mutual’s National Conversation Drive, visit www.libertymutual.com/seniordriving