When is it time to give up the keys?

By Marie Gress, LLMSW – Director of Operations at Milan Seniors for Healthy Living

Flashback: you are a teenager and someone drops the car keys in your hands for the very first time. Remember the glorious feelings of freedom and independence? Now imagine someone forcing you to give up your keys. Our natural inclination is to fight for the independence that driving represents. Older adults face many loses and life changes in their later years, so driving is one of the pieces of life they still have control of and don’t want to let that go. Yet, giving up the keys is a conversation we will have to have with a parent or loved one.
When should I start talking to my loved one about giving up the keys? Some warning signs include “close calls” on the road, an increase in dents and scrapes on the car, tickets and citations, difficulty with sight or hearing, slower reaction time, and a loss in range of motion.
How do I start this conversation? First, understand the keys may not be surrendered after one discussion. Second, if you notice warning signs, they notice it too. Next, avoid putting them on the defensive. Begin with an open-ended question like “How are you doing with your driving?” This allows them ownership of the conversation. Use reflective listening–which a combination of active listening and rephrasing what they said like, “I’m hearing you say that if you give up driving, you aren’t sure how you are going to get to your church group.” This will show that you are hear their worries, validate their feelings, and help you have clearer insight into their concerns.
The biggest barrier to tackle together, especially in Milan, is how to get around without a vehicle. Transportation service is very limited in rural areas and destinations are a significant distance away making it harder to find a family member or friend with the time to help. Many seniors who stop driving are unaware of their options therefore go to the doctor 15% less, visit family, friends, and church 65% less, and go shopping 60% less.
MSHL doesn’t want Milan area seniors to be a statistic! If your loved one (or you) are 50 and better living in 48160 zip code, our transportation service is available for Quality of Life destinations – the store, the bank, a family member’s home, a doctor’s appointment, the senior center, anywhere you wish to go, up to 20 miles outside of Milan. Call 734.508.6229 or visit www.milanseniors.org for more information and request a ride.

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