Taking the Keys From an Elderly Driver

Remember the day you got your driver’s license and your dad handed you the keys to the family car to go out with your friends? How awesome was that feeling? Never before did you feel such a sense of independence, jubilation, and an underlying current of nerves. Now imagine it in reverse, and you’ll know the pain and disappointment that comes from taking the keys away from an elderly driver.


There are a lot of news stories out there about the rise of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Couple that with the stories about elderly gentlemen confusing the gas for the brake and plowing into a business or a home, and you get a growing concern about the safety of your loved ones. There comes a time that many adult children have to consider whether or not their parents should still be behind the wheel, and there is nothing that can make that decision easier, unfortunately.
It’s not going to be a fun day around the old family dinner table when the choice is made to remove the keys from the hands of an elderly driver. However, if you believe that they’re a danger on the road then it has to be done. There are right ways and wrong ways to go about this conversation, and just a couple of dos and don’ts to try and adhere to when broaching the topic.

Dos and Don’ts

• Don’t be Condescending – Chances are, the person from whom you’re about to take the keys once handed theirs to you without losing their mind or speaking to you like a four-year-old, so pay them the same respect. Don’t talk down to them. Of course, it’s the last thing you want to do, but they don’t deserve for you to express your frustration when you’re talking to them.
• Be Encouraging – When you take the keys from them, their entire life is about to change. Instead of focusing on the negativity of the whole subject, talk with them about their options now. Let them know that you’re there to help out when needed!
• Don’t Put Them On Trial – Don’t go to the table with a laundry list of incidences in which their driving was a problem. Don’t cite examples. They know already, and no one wants to have their past mistakes shoved in their face. Do you want your parents to start talking about your mishaps in the car? No. So don’t do it to them. They’re not on trial just for being an elderly driver.
• Set a Standing Appointment – One thing most people favor is routine and there’s a good chance that your elderly loved one has one. While you’re having the discussion, set a standing appointment when you will be available for grocery shopping or dinner out with friends. Interrupt their routine as little as possible by letting them know they can still go to bingo or bridge night.
• Don’t Get Confrontational – Guess what? Your dad may not respond well to his child telling him they’re not allowing him to drive anymore and he may lash out. Don’t fight back. Remain reasonable and let him be mad for a little while. He deserves that much respect. Be reasonable in your explanation without losing your temper.
• Keep Your Promises – If you’re using more visits to sweeten the deal, keep your promise. If you’re telling your mom that you’ll come over more often to visit, then do it. Don’t take away their freedom to leave their home and then allow them to sit there alone waiting for you to show up.

Recognizing the Reality

After having the discussion with your elderly driver and loved one, there is going to come a time when reality sets in and you’re going to have to grasp the gravity of your decision. This means that every doctor’s appointment or grocery trip is now up to you. If you’re not able to accept these added responsibilities then find out what kind of transport options are available in your area before having the discussion with your parents.
There is definitely going to be some hurt feelings, some anger, and some denial, but the conversation doesn’t have to be horrible. Keep in mind how it felt when you got the keys in your hand for the first time and ask yourself how you’d react to have them taken away.

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