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Time to Talk


How does a child — even an adult child — have a conversation with a parent about their driving? How can you tell your parents that it is not safe for them to drive anymore? It feels like the roles have been reversed; only a few decades ago, your parents were the ones telling you that you couldn’t get behind the wheel.

This is not a pleasant conversation. But it’s a necessary one, especially if your parents are a danger to themselves or others. How can you tell whether it’s time to have “The Talk?” Be on the lookout for early warning signs like unexplained dents on the car or Mom or Dad often taking a long time to run simple errands. Also, make it a point to ride with them and observe. If you notice things that make you concerned, there are several ways to proceed.

For starters, try to talk about the issue with your parents, with a focus on safety. Your loved ones will likely tell you they have been driving for decades and have never had an accident, but remind them that you’re more concerned about the here and now.

You can also take them to get a driving test. Horizon Therapy on Hilton Head Island works with doctors to have people tested. It might help to have your parents’ doctors tell them that they need to stop driving. Have the doctor write them a “prescription” to stop driving, and have him write them a prescription for the driving test. If they have a good relationship with their doctors, most people won’t argue with them.

If all else fails, hide your parents’ car keys or disable the car by removing the distributor cap or disconnecting the battery.

Unfortunately, driving isn’t the only sticky subject adult children must broach with their aging parents. You may also find yourselves arguing over the need for home health care. Your parents likely will say things like, “I don’t need any stranger in my house helping me. I am just fine.”

But if you’re noticing a decline in personal hygiene, weight loss, rotting food in the refrigerator and a messy house, they’re not fine.

Try reminding your parents how much energy it requires to take care of ourselves and our homes. As we age, we simply don’t have the energy to keep up with everything.

It’s often helpful to start small, easing your parents into the idea of home care by hiring someone to come by just a few hours a week. Be patient, and let your parents know that this person is there to help with things like laundry, cleaning and maybe making a meal. Interview several agencies to find the right fit for your parents — there are more than 20 in the Lowcountry, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one you and your parents feel comfortable with.

Being the child of aging parents can be a joyful time for both of you. But it can also be challenging. Love and patience can go a long way when helping a parent.



Home Instead Senior Care

Griswold Home Care

Optim Healthcare

Right at Home

The Seabrook of Hilton Head

Karen DoughtieKaren Doughtie is the assistant executive director at Memory Matters, a nonprofit group based on Hilton Head Island. Contact her at 843-842-6688 or | karen@mymemorymatters.org.