Taking Away the Keys
Knowing when to stop driving can be one of the most challenging aspects of aging. Common issues such as poor eyesight, limited hearing, reduced reaction time or lack of focus can all contribute to an older driver being a hazard to himself and others. Family members struggle with how to limit or stop their loved one from driving, and how to manage the resulting, often life-altering loss of freedom.
Paul’s family reached out to me with just such a situation. At 86, Paul was a vigorous, healthy older adult who enjoyed his independence. He drove his car nearly every day on errands, visiting with friends, or just enjoying the scenery of his small town. However, Paul’s eyesight was failing and his reaction time was slow. While he only drove familiar routes, his family suspected there were times when Paul had become lost. His driving was an increasing problem.
Initially, family members discussed their driving concerns with Paul. The conversation was difficult, and Paul rejected any suggestion of giving up his car. His independence was essential. Ultimately, he did agree to avoid driving in bad weather and at night, but his family still had concerns.
The freedom of driving can not be taken away without a plan for how daily routines will continue. Without a car, how would Paul manage grocery shopping or visit the doctor? Would he still be able to participate in activities at the senior center? These were all essential to his well-being.
After a bit of research, I learned that Paul’s grandson, Kevin, needed a car to commute to college. Paul’s car would be a perfect solution. Since Kevin lived nearby, he agreed to be Paul’s daily driver in exchange for the donation of the car for college. Initially, Paul was resistant. But, he loved his grandson and knew that the car would be put to good use. Kevin created a schedule to accommodate his college classes as well as his grandfather’s daily activities. Over time, the two created a unique bond while spending time in the car each day. Family members no longer worried about Paul’s driving, and both Paul and Kevin reaped the benefits of their time together.