Updated: Oct 5, 2022
The topic of driving is often not addressed by family members because they don’t want to have a battle and create bad feelings with their loved one. They may not know how to address it, and sometimes not all family members agree that there is a problem with dad’s driving. Someone may say “he’ll drive anyway so what’s the point?”
How do you convince your dad that you do have concerns and fear that someone’s safety is at risk, either his or someone else’s?
Before you initiate a conversation with your dad, here are some points to consider:
Have you driven with him recently? Do you know for sure that he is unsafe to drive or are you just assuming he shouldn’t drive because of his age?
Is there any damage to the car? New dents or scrapes?
Has he ever gotten lost?
Would you let your child drive with him?
If your dad can no longer drive, how will he get places? Will it be up to you or someone else to provide transportation? Is he the only driver in the household? Will it impact other people who depend on him?
Imagine how you would feel if someone wanted to take your license. What would you say or do? How would you want to be treated in this situation?
It is critical that you enter the discussion with empathy and compassion. Specific phrases that may help include:
“You’re right. You have been driving for 50 years and have a safe driving record.” Agree that the problem is with the other drivers on the road.
“I think you should retire from driving” rather than stop driving. The word retire implies a transition in life and is more positive than the word stop.
“The doctor doesn’t want you to drive right now. He thinks it’s a good idea to take a break for six months.” This may create the change that is needed.
“We will re-evaluate in six months.”
“I know you don’t like the idea of not driving.”
“I’m sorry. This is hard for you. I wish it could be different but it’s important that you not drive.”
“How would you feel if you hurt a child? I know you would never want anything to happen to a child while you were behind the wheel.”
If you can convince your dad to agree to not driving, even for a short period, what’s the next step? What is the game plan for how he will continue to live his life, do the things he enjoys, and go places? Tell him you will help with the transition. Work with him to develop an alternative transportation plan.
As is the case with many topics, it is best to be proactive and not wait until you have a crisis on your hands. Getting dad to retire from driving sooner rather than later will provide peace of mind, and possibly prevent harm or injury. Remember that it is a sensitive issue for most people. Choose your words carefully, be supportive, and help him adjust to being in the passenger seat!
Need some help having the conversation? Takacs McGinnis Elder Care Law may be able to assist. Just give us a call at 615.824.2571.