What to Do When a Parent Can No Longer Drive

a set of car keys

By Alison Wood, Contributing Writer

All things considered, it appears that one of your parents should no longer drive — for his or her own safety, as well as the safety of others.

Perhaps your parent concluded this on his or her own. The decision might have been forced upon him or her because of a medical diagnosis or illness. Or, he or she might have very reluctantly given up their car keys because they were persuaded by you or others that it was no longer safe to drive.

It could be that the keys were taken away from your parent again his or her will. Or, it might even be that you are still trying to convince a parent that it’s time to stop driving, without yet having much success.

Giving your parent space to grieve the loss of freedom

However the decision has been — or will be — reached, it’s clear that losing the freedom to drive is a very big life adjustment. Most of us equate being able to slip into the driver’s seat as an integral part of our independence as an adult. When that freedom is taken from us, with no hope of it returning, there must be a period of mental and emotional adjustment.

Your parent might be angry about the loss, especially if he or she feels you played a part in that loss. They might feel it’s just another step in their inevitable reliance on others. Losing driving privileges also brings a person face to face with fears around one’s mortality, as it’s just one more reminder that as we age, we lose the ability to do what once came quite easily.

However your parent is feeling, it’s important to give him or her space to grieve the loss. You might need to be patient if any frustration is taken out on family members. Above all, help him or her keep the bigger picture in mind — that this change has been made for reasons of safety. If your parent wants to talk about how upset he or she is about losing independence, then provide that opportunity.

Guard against isolation

When a parent can no longer drive, you’ll want to ensure any day to day needs are met — for example, the ability to meet appointments and to shop. However, it’s also vital to make sure that your parent doesn’t become isolated. When someone can drive one’s self,  activities often (and easily) include meeting friends, attending classes, or heading to a social event. When the car is no longer available, those opportunities are lost.

However, due to feelings such as pride or the desire not to become a burden, some parents won’t mention that they feel isolated or lonely since losing the ability to drive. You might need to step in to check that parents who cannot drive can still go out as needed and fulfill their needs. Spend some time going through what their week used to look like before, when they were still driving, and then help them put some alternatives for getting around into place.

Practical solutions

It’s important to note that your continuous support for your parent — as well as your empathy — regarding his or her new situation will also lead to some extra responsibilities for you. If you live close to your parent, it might be easy for you to now drive them as needed. However, you still have your own life to lead and all that it entails, including your work, family commitments, childcare, and of course, your own social life.  If you live further away, the fact that your parent can no long drive can complicates things even more.

The first step is to see if you can come up with additional help from other family members and perhaps friends who would be willing to give your parent a lift from time to time. Maybe you can do some driving duties, while other family members or friends can commit to other times, days, or destinations. If your parent usually goes out often with friends, perhaps those friends could pick your parent up, or even meet at your parent’s house instead.

Widen your circle of support

Despite the best intentions, it might not always be possible for family members and friends to step in and provide driving support for your parent. In that case, you might need to widen your support network.

There are voluntary associations that can help in some situations. You will need to research what’s available in your location, as each state and city will vary. You could also check in with local taxi companies to see if they offer special discounted rates for seniors. They might be very willing to do this, especially if the ride is a regular, consistent booking.

If you need additional support and live in the Chicago area, contact us here at Care & Comfort at Home. Driving seniors to and from appointments, meetings, and outings is one of the many services we offer, as is running errands. Our in-home care services can be used as and when needed, and we work around your schedule as well as your parent’s. If you would like to find out more, click here for a FREE consultation.

When a parent is no longer able to drive, there will be a period of adjustment. However, if you can demonstrate to your parent that independence is still possible and if you can guard against isolation, any discomfort associated with the adjustment can ease over time.