101 Ways to Cope with Losing Elderly Parents #8

One of the most difficult issues that can arise with elderly parents revolves around driving the car, or perhaps I should say ceasing to drive the car. 

For a person who has been driving for 60+ years, the car tends to be a crucial symbol of life, living and independence. However, it can also become a very lethal weapon if driving skills are impaired by symptoms associated with failing health.

While there are legal requirements for older people to be medically certified as being fit to drive on an annual basis, situations can arise where family members become aware that a parent’s ability to drive has diminished after a further health setback and that they have definitely reached a point where they are a a danger to themselves and others on the road, even though they may only be driving very short distances to local shops and the like.

In ideal circumstances, the parent will be the person to take the decision to hang up the car keys. If not, the matter has to be taken in hand by the family, either directly or through a third-party, like a family doctor.

Whatever the case, it is crucial to recognise the significance of the car and to identify other means of transport so that the parent doesn’t feel trapped. For example, the point can be made that savings on ‘not driving’ can be used to take taxis for both essential outings and what may be perceived as ‘luxuries,’ like a drive along a much loved stretch of  coastline or a trip to visit family or friends.



Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

11 thoughts on “101 Ways to Cope with Losing Elderly Parents #8”

  1. This brought back a number of memories for me. My mother had to give up driving in her late sixties due to the onset of macular degeneration. It was a very difficult transition. My father continued to drive until he was ninety-years old. In those final years of driving he decided to stay off busy roads and highways, which was sensible. I think one of the deepest fears is the loss of independence. When we can no longer drive it changes the way we interact with the world around us – and we know there is no going back. It’s a difficult threshold in life we all must eventually cross.

    1. Hi Brian, lovely to hear from you. I think you sum it up perfectly with the point that when we stop driving ‘we know there’s no going back.’
      I’m not sure that the significance for the elderly parent of giving up driving is fully grasped by people as their focus tends to be pretty much exclusively on the major point of the dangers associated with continuing.

  2. This is so hard. It isn’t just a loss of independence, but what it represents that is so hard. Right now I have a 89 year old m-in-law who is determined to keep driving after multiple falls …and my own 82 year old active and alert mum who has quadruple vision in one eye after a glaucoma operation and is angry and scared she may never be able to drive again.
    May we recognize and accept what is going on when we get there!

    1. Hi Willow, difficult alright, though I think it’s pretty obvious at an objective level when someone is unfit to drive and presents a danger to both themselves and others. It’s the emotional stuff and lack of independence that seems to give rise to all the angst.

  3. It’s not always easy to persuade the elderly to switch to taking taxis when it’s not something they’re used to doing. My mother-in-law sees them as an unnecessary expense plus I think she’s secretly rather nervous of them – after all it can involve getting into a car with a strange man. Getting old is not pleasant but it will happen to us all.

    1. Sally, many thanks for writing. I agree that changing to using taxis or other forms of transport can be a big issue, especially if someone has been used to driving their own car for most of their lives.
      Maybe there’s a lesson in all this for younger generations to ensure that we use a mix of modes of transport so that they won’t be alien if/when we can no longer drive.
      The ‘unnecessary expense’ argument is one I’ve certainly heard but I think that between the sale of the car and not having to pay for insurance and car tax, that a little bit of luxury becomes a ‘necessity!’

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