The focus of the conversation will depend largely on the situation at hand. You may need to observe your elderly parents driving before you have a talk with them to get an idea of what you will need to deal with. For some, the talk will consist of a recommendation to get eyeglasses. For others, it may be more or less serious.
If you suspect one or both of your parents have a vision problem, a driving talk may consist of making sure they have scheduled an appointment with an eye doctor. If they have not, you may need to stress how important it is during the conversation. Be sure to do this without saying something that is likely to offend.
If one of your parents is doing things like stopping in the middle of traffic, getting lost in places that should be familiar or having delayed responses, there may be a medical reason behind the poor driving habits. In this type of situation, this could be very dangerous and the senior citizen should not drive at all until a doctor or other medical professional has given them clearance to do so. Another thing to consider is physical or mental disabilities. These also can fall under the medical category, depending on their severity. A talk with your parents in this driving situation could consist of recommendation to see a doctor, as well as a discussion of medical symptoms that could be causing the driving difficulties.
"The Family Conversations" brochure, offered as a free senior resource from TheHartford.com, advises observing the driving of the individual over time and keeping a record of the data collected. Consumers who download the Family Conversations will be able to print a worksheet that is for this purpose. Some other things that can be found in the free brochure are observation tips, behavior warning signs, questions to consider if driving needs to be stopped and more.
When confronted with the evidence, combined with the concerns of loved ones, it may be easier for senior citizen drivers to accept the situation. A gentle, but firm approach is best. The point is to make it clear that there may be some issues with driving, but you do not want to anger, offend or place blame on your parents.
A sentence such as "Dad, you drive horrible. You need to get off the road!" is not ideal. More ideal, would be something like, "Dad, I noticed when you drove to the store today that you passed up a couple stop signs. That isn't like you. Is something wrong?" In the second statement, there is room for the senior driver to open up and talk about the situation. Yet, in the first, there is likely just room for arguments and hurt feelings.
Talking to your parents about driving is not always an easy thing to do, but it may become a necessary one. When having the driving talk with elderly parents, it is easier if you come prepared with questions, concerns and even observation data that you have collected.