When our parents begin to hit those later years it can be somewhat like walking on eggshells. You might start seeing some small things that concern you, but try not to blow them out of proportion. They might be still driving their car and the thought might come to you to ask them to stop driving or you might even be so bold as to take their keys from them. This is where many children make a big mistake. Remember, it is very important for the elderly to be able to maintain self worth and dignity in their later years. Having a son or daughter tell them what to do or what not to do can really hurt their feelings and cause a lot of problems. It’s easy to understand this concern if the parent has had some accidents or is not able to drive safely where they might be a risk to themselves or others on the road, but if this is not the case, respect them enough to allow them to have input into what they are wanting to do.
If the case is serious and they should not be behind the wheel then sit down with them and discuss it in a very loving way and try hard not to talk to them in a demeaning way. Remember, they have lived along time making their own decisions and have done pretty well on their own. They deserve to have your respect as they always have. Many times just sitting down with the elderly parent and discussing your concerns and worries and why you feel the way you do, will allow them to look at things in a different way. Remember, they loved and took care of you for a long time and they cared about how you felt and I’m sure they still do. If you truly show your love and concern for them as you speak to them, showing them respect and dignity, they might surprise you and see things more your way. Young or old nobody likes to be told what they are going to do. Often, if your concerns are put to them as “What do you think about this mom”, or “Dad, don’t you think it would be better if we did this”, they would be more excepting of the suggestion and not be as defensive.
If the situation is serious and they will not listen after all you have done, it might require a more drastic approach. I feel that it is very important to hold the relationship between our parents as most important. Having said that, you may not agree with the following tactic, but it may very well solve the problem. If I knew that my mother was dangerous on the road and that her well being and the well being of many other innocent people were at risk, I might be so inclined to contact a police officer friend or just talk to one about your concerns. I might explain to the officer that I feel that my mother could be a danger on the road and would he be willing to keep an eye out for her and see what he thinks. This is more easily done in smaller towns and communities but if you have that luxury, it might be worth your wild. I’m not an advocate for telling you to be dishonest to your parent or sneaky, but we are talking about their well being here. Sometimes the less you say can be the best, if you know what I mean. If the officer feels that she is unsafe in her ability to continue to drive then he can take the needed steps on his end. This will accomplish the goal of her safety and also help you save face in her eyes as well.
I do feel that you must be prepared to take up the slack in the event they voluntarily retire the keys or if they are taken by other means. If they lose their ability to more around that they have enjoyed for many years, this is going to be a life-changing event. As their offspring we will need to be sensitive to this and be willing to make arrangements for them or be willing to transport them ourselves. Depending on the number of siblings we have and the availability of each, we can have a family meeting and work out who could be responsible for what week or what day or what church meeting or what ladies or men’s organization we would be able to drive them to. I would suggest that the parent not be in attendance at this meeting. I remember times when my own family meetings were taking place and my mother was sitting there. Every once in a while there would be a conflict amongst us siblings with who could or couldn’t do what and my mother would just get frustrated and speak up and say, “Just forget it, I don’t need it”, or something like that.
These types of situations can really hurt the parent in so many ways. Most of all it makes them feel as though they are burdensome and can start them on a path of depression. Depression is a whole other issue that we will deal with later, but it is very serious. We never want our loved ones feeling in anyway that they are a burden. I always tried my best to let my mother and father know how much I enjoyed being there for them. I’m not saying that every moment was a vacation, but for the most part, I did enjoy being there for them and seeing the gratitude in their eyes. The parent doesn’t need to be in the meeting anyway to solve logistical issues of who is going to transport and when or who is going to stay and what night. The parent doesn’t need to be in on who will be taking care of getting the medicines ready each week. They just need to know that they don’t have to worry about it. The less they worry the better off they are. Bottom line is, work around them and make their lives easier.