When Should You Take the Car Keys Away From an Aging Parent?


Having an aging loved one behind the wheel can be a stressful situation for many families and can easily cause concern for the safety of the loved one, passengers and others on the road. It is also very difficult to decide if your family member is still capable of driving for many reasons—from having to convince them to relinquish their independence to learning to accept the difficult reality that they can no longer take care of themselves.

As a registered nurse and the leader of Partners in Care, a licensed home care agency affiliated with the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, my colleagues and I have dealt with this situation with countless patients and even our own parents. Knowing when it is time take the keys and tell your family member that they can no longer drive is challenging, but with our experience we have come to know signs that are helpful in determining when intervention is necessary.

Below are a few suggestions that families should be on the lookout for when considering if their loved one should still be driving. We hope these help in making this difficult decision and gauging the true ability of elderly family members on the road. Remember, you are doing it for their health and safety just as much as the health and safety of others.

  • Consider Physical and Health Limitations: Take notice if your loved one has difficulty straightening their extremities or if they get stiff after periods of sitting. Consider eyesight and be sure that prescription eyeglasses are updated regularly.
  • Be Aware of Prescription Side Effects: Medications that cause drowsiness or slowed reaction times are very common among elderly care plans. Be sure you are aware how these medications affect your loved one and stay updated on any changes or additions to their medications.
  • Speak with Their Primary Doctor: Seek the advice of a professional who understands your loved one’s health risks and what it could mean for their driving ability.
  • See for Yourself: Ride along with your loved one a few times to gauge their reaction times and any struggles that you notice. Routinely check their car for any new dents or scratches that may have arisen when they had been driving by themselves.

Jennifer Rajewski is a RN and senior vice president at Partners in Care, an affiliate of The Visiting Nurse Service of New York. VNSNY is the largest not-for-profit home- and community-based health care agency in the United States, providing quality private care services. For more information, visitwww.partnersincareny.org or call (888) 735-8913.

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