Safety vs Independence

Safety vs Independence

How many of us, have questioned ourselves, about letting our elderly parents drive? It’s a story I hear over and over again, from the families that come to me for advice and counsel. I am the Marketing Director for a wonderful Continuing Care Retirement Community, and have talked with hundreds of families about this very subject. Talk about a difficult challenge for both the parent involved and the family members who are torn between safety and allowing independence…

Two weeks ago, I had to make that difficult decision for my own father. My father is a resident here in our Assisted Living community, and at 89 years old, we have been noticing those subtle and not so subtle changes in his physical wellness. There have not been any accidents, or fender benders, but just a gradual decline in his ability to walk, hear and be aware of his surroundings. My father is lucky, and has transportation at his beckon call within our community, and with me, his daughter. We offer to take him anywhere that he needs to go. But like many other men at his age, his car is his sense of freedom. Getting in the car to “go for a ride” gives them that sense of being in charge.

Families are “afraid” to make that final decision. Ask yourself this question, are you willing to put yourself or your family in the car with him, as he drives? If we are not willing to put our life on the line, why would we allow them to put others at risk? Folks – this is up to you, to make this decision, and no – it’s not easy. My Father was very angry with me, and it lasted all of 2 days. In his heart, he knew his driving days were over. I was okay with that temporary anger. We do this out of love. It’s just one of the many difficult decisions that we will need to make, as we navigate this new territory of taking care of a parent.

Most states don’t require older drivers to undergo additional testing, and legal authorities can’t take away one’s right to drive until he or she has actually done harm, leaving families to work out this issue themselves. Use your best judgement when making this decision. While this is a tough conversation to have with your loved one, ignoring the signs can be so dangerous.