I’ve forgotten whether Dad’s driver’s license came up for renewal the year before or the year after his 90th birthday. What I do remember is the fact that it was renewed for 8 or 10 years!
Also surprising: Dad went to the DMV bureau in a smaller town (he lived in a city) 20 minutes away. It was easy to park there; they were nice. He had a habit of keeping his driver’s license and all credit cards, but one, hidden in the trunk of his car. As he began the renewal process he realized he didn’t have his soon-to-expire license and told the DMV person that it was in the trunk of his car; he’d get it. No problem--the computer could access data. He only needed proof of who he was. The only “document” that had his name: a Safeway Grocery Store club membership card in his pocket. Proof of ID accepted. Renewal granted.
Fact: Some older drivers (and others) drive under “ify” circumstances.
Fact: When it’s threatening to life and limb, prevention is key.
Fact: Parents resent being forced to do something, just as we would resent our children forcing us to do something.
Fact: The entities and agencies, you would expect help from, may be of little or no help.
We all agree that we must stop parents who drive dangerously, but how do we do it without straining family relationships? If you're an only child, it's your burden. If there are siblings and the majority or all agree, great! If you don't agree, see information in #4.
#1. What seems like a major problem, may be easily solved (could be medications or a case like Kim’s mother). Remind mentally able parents of this. By pulling then into the situation and saying the problem may be easily solved, it's respectful, empowering, and helps them buy into whatever may come. To rule out serious problems, with your parents agreeing and perhaps making the call, first consult the primary care doctor, which may lead to additional testing (eg. vision, neurological).
#2. If it’s not correctable, the doctor is in the best position to deliver the message. This is a huge loss, a chunk of life is being removed. Doctors have practice in delivering bad news and hopefully do it in a kind, objective manner.
#3. Many adult children have phoned police, insurance companies, DMV etc., in efforts to curtail parents’ driving, and the results vary. It’s sneaky, which is disrespectful and undermines self-esteem among other things. Understandably children usually don’t feel good about it. Only as a last resort, it may have merit.
#4. If we must deliver the no-more-driving message, how can we give facts, affirm our parents’ ability to participate in the decision-making and arrive at a no-more-driving result? If we're uncomfortable with that responsibility, a social worker experienced with the elderly can be a big help. Contact a local family counseling agency or an agency whose social workers specialize in geriatrics. It definitely won't be the first time they've helped adult children with this problem.