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When Dad Can't Drive: Common Senior Fears

By Ruby Cemental

For many seniors, the loss of their ability to drive is a milestone that has been dreaded for years. Chances are, Dad is aware that his vision is failing, or that his reflexes have slowed. He's aware that it's no longer as safe for him to be behind the wheel as it once was. While he's concerned about those issues, chances are, your dad is also concerned about a number of other things. Knowing what fears he faces will help you handle the conversation more compassionately and give you the tools to have a clear, calm conversation with your dad about the fact that he can't drive anymore.

Common Senior Fears

The following are common fears that seniors have about no longer being able to drive. Understanding these fears will help you relate to your dad and to have a meaningful conversation about driving when the time comes. 

1. Isolation

The ability to drive is also the ability to connect with people. Thanks to his car, Dad can visit his friends, spend lunch time out at a restaurant just for the ability to be around people, or come visit you when he decides he's ready. Letting go of his ability to drive means letting go of his ability to get out of the house. Make sure that you make plans that will allow your father to connect with people on a regular basis. Stop by often and arrange for friends to come to him, then take him out to handle those fears.

2. Handling Daily Chores

When you run out of toilet paper 3 days before you're supposed to go the grocery store again, it's simple to stop and pick up a pack—when you have a driver's license. Without his car, however, Dad isn't going to be able to do that anymore. Develop a plan for taking care of those daily chores, from doctor's appointments to quick trips out to the grocery store. Band together with your siblings in order to be sure that someone is always available for those last-minute errands.

3. Becoming a Burden

All your life, your dad has taken care of you. Now, it's time for you to take care of him, but he may be wary of becoming a burden. Assure your father that he's not a burden to you, that you enjoy the time with him, and that you don't mind helping with those tasks that he's no longer able to accomplish for himself. Remember, he's the same person he always has been.

How To Tell Dad He Can't Drive

If your dad shouldn't be driving anymore, it may be your responsibility to have that conversation with him. It's always difficult for someone to acknowledge that they can't do something they once could do. Often, senior parents need to be approached by their children to have the conversation about driving. Here are some tips!

  • Remember his potential fears. From the outside looking in, it might seem like a simple matter of safety. However, from his perspective, it will feel like losing more of his independence, another reminder that he is getting older. So choose your words carefully and show empathy.

  • He will probably object. It's unlikely that Dad will calmly acquiesce to your suggestion. So, knowing his particular personality, think about what his likely objections will be. That way, you will be prepared to tactfully overcome them.

  • Driving serves a purpose right now and the need to get around won't go away. Therefore, it's unwise to tell him he can't drive without clearly outlining how he will take care of his responsibilities. Speak to family and friends beforehand to find out who might be able to help out. Having a game plan ready can help the transition seem smoother. 

  • If you need to, you can bring in a doctor to discuss the dangers of your dad driving.  If the doctor feels your parent's driving is a hazard, encourage him to break the news along with you. A doctor's orders are tough to ignore. Not only is your parent more likely to listen to a trusted professional, but you won't have to be the "bad guy." In cases where there is a medical issue, such as dementia, the doctor can notify the department of motor vehicle, and they'll require he turn in his license.

The transition to not driving is difficult for many seniors. For some, the loss of that ability is easier to handle if they receive regular in-home care. As you are learning to deal with the changes that aging can bring, be patient with yourself, patient with your loved one, seek advice and answers to questions, and remember you are not in this alone. Contact a Caring Senior Service team member today!

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Ruby Cemental Blog Author

Tags: Senior Safety

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