This is a very important article for any of you who are caregivers to an elderly person or someone who is impaired.Â As a person who has been car-free for six months, I can attest to how traumatic it is not to be able to just hop in the car and go where I want.Â The decision was mine to give away my vehicle because down deep I knew I was going to kill either myself or someone else.
By Connie Matthiessen, Caring.com senior editor
Giving up the car keys is a major milestone in a personÂ’s life, and itÂ’s important not to underestimate how devastating it can be. YouÂ’ll be better prepared to help older loved ones face this life change if you know what to expect.
Since driving is associated with maturity, independence, and power in our culture, it makes sense that giving it up can trigger deep fear Â— and resistance. For most people, relinquishing the car keys will mean:
Â• Loss of control and autonomy
Â• Increase in dependency
Â• Loss of ability to participate in activities they enjoy
Â• Increased social isolation
Â• Loss of the link to their past that driving provides
These arenÂ’t irrational fears but very real concerns for seniors who can no longer drive. ItÂ’s important to try to put yourself in their place and imagine how you would manage if, for example, you couldnÂ’t use your car for the next week. How would you buy groceries, visit friends, get to your doctorsÂ’ appointments? Now imagine being told that you could never drive again. Understanding your loved onesÂ’ experience will help you support them as they make this difficult transition and aid you in helping them tap into resources that will make giving up driving easier.
Giving up the car keys is likely to create formidable practical problemsÂ–for everyone involvedÂ–concerning:
Housing. Is their current home practical and safe without a car, or will they have to move?
Shopping. Can they walk to the grocery store, or are there alternative forms of transportation available?
Physicians and other caregivers. Will they be able to get to their healthcare appointments without a car?
Community. How will they see friends, engage in activities, and pursue other interests? Do they have friends nearby?
Transportation options. What are the public transportation options available to them? Is senior transportation or paratransit available in their community? Are there relatives, neighbors, or friends who could drive them to the store or to doctorsÂ’ appointments, at a reasonable cost?
Anticipate the practical problems that giving up driving is likely to involve, and you and others who care for them will be better able to take concrete steps to address any issues.