If you thought talking with loved ones about finances was the hardest conversation you would have, think again.
Many would argue that the topic of giving up driving is the hardest conversation. After all, who wants to be the “bad guy”? No one!
The topic came up in our family after my grandmother had a little mishap with her car. Her car was quickly repaired and she was back on the road. The scary thing was that, once her car was fixed, she seemed to have forgotten all about the mishap and her driving was quickly back to “status quo.” Nevertheless, any family member that was ever her passenger commented that they would have felt safer if they were driving. It’s hard to ignore that reality.
In the end, we offered to drive more often with her as our passenger and she drove less. Our family took her to the grocery store and appointments, but still she had the keys and drove occasionally. Suggesting to her that she give up driving was taboo. No one really wanted to have “that” conversation.
Driving gives us independence. It gives us the ability to pick up and go as we wish. It’s a rite of passage earned all those years ago; however, even a lifetime history of safe driving could not erase her current driving situation. Somehow, she needed to stop driving, for her safety and for the safety of others.
Rather than appointing a family member to be the “bad guy” and take the keys, our family decided to engage the help of a professional driving evaluation. Her primary care physician wrote an order for a professional assessment of her ability to drive safely. The evaluation was a two-part process with a pre-drive assessment to test her physical functioning, strength, vision, visual perception, cognition and knowledge of traffic laws. The second part of the evaluation was a behind-the-wheel assessment to access vehicle control, speed, turns, navigation and interaction with traffic. While this driving assessment cost a few hundred dollars, it was completely worth the cost.
However, my grandmother failed the assessment, and her license was revoked. While she was upset at first, she softened over time. She realized her new situation was going to include having a driver. The peace of mind knowing she was not driving far outweighed the consequences of any future accidents. For families facing the same dilemma, the driver evaluation by Brandt’s Driving School might be your answer, too.
Some families have found “therapeutic lies” to be helpful. Therapeutic lies use an approach to divert attention away from the matter in order to protect the person’s best interests. One family disconnected the car battery and then pretended they didn’t know what was wrong when the car didn’t start. Another family “lost” the car keys and then lamented how expensive a new key would be to get made.
Of course, one opportunity not to be missed is the annual renewal of the car insurance and/or registration. Put a positive spin on it, and offer the suggestion that it would be one less expense if they didn’t renew. A creative and successful strategy I have heard used several times is giving/selling the automobile to someone else, perhaps a grandchild that just received their driver’s license or another family member in need. This tactic often makes the person feel that they have relinquished their car for a good purpose and are helping someone out, rather than giving something up.
As difficult as it is to bring up the topic, it really is a non-negotiable when your loved one’s (and other driver’s) safety is at stake. If you’re noticing new dents in the car, scratches on the side mirrors or paint exchanges on any of the car’s four corners, it’s likely time to have this hard conversation.