Caring for Parents & ‘Driving Miss Daisy’


grannyatthewheel, caring for parents, eldercareIf you are caring for parents, are you worried about whether it's safe for them to continue driving? This eldercare issue is a tough one because we need to balance safety with our parent's desire for independent living.

Physical Issues That Can Affect Driving

According to an article in New Jersey Jewish News, 90% of our driving ability is related to vision. Because older people are more likely to develop conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts, vision problems may affect their driving safety. Those caring for parents need to be aware of vision problems that may make independent living more difficult. Be sure to include eye appointments with your other eldercare appointments.

Red Flags That May Signal Driving Problems

When caring for parents, keep an eye out for these red flags that may signal that it's time for your parent's driving ability to be reevaluated:

1       Difficulty making turns or backing up

2       Slow response time to unexpected events

3       Problems with parking

4       Increased anger or agitation when driving

5       Accidents or more close calls

6       Problems with lane changes or maintaining lanes

7       Traffic tickets or warnings

8       Sudden unwarranted stops in traffic

9       Difficulty concentrating

10    Problems signaling

11    Bumping mailboxes, etc. because of misjudged distances

12    Unaware of traffic signs or dangers

13    Riding the brake or driving at unsafe speeds

14    Confusion, even in familiar locations

15    Mixing up the gas and brake pedals

If you notice any of these red flags while caring for parents, be sure to include a discussion about driving as part of their eldercare. It's best to have these discussions earlier rather than later to increase the chances of extending your parents' opportunities for independent living. Consider your relationship with your parents and how past discussions about eldercare have been handled when deciding how to approach the subject of driving.

Approaching the Subject

Your parents may assume that giving up a driver's license is the end of independent living, so it's important to present other transportation options if it's time to give up the keys. If just a few red flags are surfacing, you can also suggest a gradual winding down of driving responsibilities instead of a complete cessation of driving. Transportation alternatives include private driving companies, non-profit agencies, public transportation, and free services through churches and other volunteer organizations.

Have you already had to approach the topic of transportation while caring for parents? If so, please share your experiences with this aspect of eldercare so caregivers can benefit from your experiences. Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to sign up for our RSS Feed to receive regular updates about new eldercare topics posted on

--Carrie L. Hill, Ph.D