Talking with Older Drivers in Northern Michigan About Giving Up the Keys
My 89-year old mother lives in the small town of Grayling, Michigan. She is still fairly active and lives in her own home. The problem is her driving. I rode with her when I was in town visiting her last week. Wow! As much as I hate to say it, she has become a real danger behind the wheel. I fear for her safety and for anyone else on the road when she is. I don’t think she will hang up the keys without a fight. What should I do?
Victoria in West Branch, Michigan
This conversation can be one of the most difficult ones for adult children to have with an aging parent. Our caregivers have heard this concern expressed many times from adult children all across the state of Michigan. Here are a few pointers that I think can help:
- Unless you feel like your mother is in immediate danger, try to delay talking with her until you have some options for her for transportation. For seniors in the state of Michigan, organizations that can help you find transportation include Eldercare Locator, Michigan Offices of Services to the Aging, and your mother’s local Area Agency on Aging.
- Make a list of specific concerns you have about your mother’s driving. Since you’ve ridden with her recently, that is probably easy to do. I would also look her car over. It likely has bumps and scrapes. Add those to your list.
- Once you have your two lists pulled together, the easiest way to start the conversation might be to ask her how she feels about driving. Does she think it is time to use other means to get around town? Her answer may surprise you. Remember to try to keep the tone of this conversation kind but factual. You don’t want to put your mother on the defensive.
- If she disagrees and maintains she is a safe driver, you have a couple of options. One would be to talk with her family physician. He/she can do a physical exam including performing reflex testing. That will probably prove your point with your mother.
- As a last resort, the state of Michigan has a process for reporting unsafe drivers. You will need to complete a Request for Reexamination Form (OC-88) with the Secretary of State’s office. Or you can file it online.
Finally, you might be interested in watching this new documentary, Old People Driving. It tackles this very topic from the senior’s perspective. Very enlightening.
Best of luck to you, Victoria!