When to Take Away the Car Keys

ACT 2 Road Map

ACT 2 Road Map

My High School Kid passed his Behind-The-Wheel Drivers Test over five months ago and I still get clammy hands whenever he borrows the car so the last thing on my mind is my mom’s driving.

Until about a month ago, her driving record had been cleaner than the hood of a showroom Tesla. Then a bozo in a beat-up Buick clipped her front end, totaled her car and shook her confidence. Even with her new zippy car that literally screams if the driver wanders out of the lane, mom is a tad tentative.

“Do I need to worry?” I asked Estee Bienstock, RN and Executive Director of ALLPOINT Home Health.


“The signs are pretty clear when someone needs to give up the car keys,” she said. “You notice your parent dropping things or overcompensating for confusion. Getting home should take fifteen minutes, but because of wrong turns, it’s taking them forty.”

Hmmm. My mom takes her sweet time getting from place to place, but that’s been her M.O. forever. So my mom doesn’t fit the profile and I hope to heaven she never does because she’d wring my neck if I ever tried to have “The Talk.”

“People are living longer, healthier lives but when health diminishes, the changes can be rapid. People are frozen in fear at the thought of losing their independence,” Ms. Bienstock informed me.

My mom-in-law suffers from Alzheimer’s but she did such a great job hiding it that not until my sister-in-law began following her around in the car did we realize just how poor her driving skills had become.

What if your parent doesn’t see eye-to-eye with you on driving when they’ve had accidents or been diagnosed with a condition like dementia that clearly interferes with driving?

  • Present a united front. Get the whole family to dinner and then bring up the subject.
  • Suggest options like Dial-A-Ride, Access Transportation or taxis. Taxi vouchers are available for people with limited funds.
  • If all else fails, submit a written report to your parent’s doctor that outlines any accidents or close calls on the road.

For more advice on “The Talk” and  moving into Act 2 of life, check out:

Caring For Yourself, Your Money and Your Loved Ones

Saturday, April 20, 2013                                                                                                       8:45am-2:00pm (includes lunch)                                                                                            The Beverly Hills Women’s Club                                                                                          1700 Chevy Chase Drive, Beverly Hills, CA                                                                          Cost is $75 or $60 for two or more tickets

For additional information: http://www.facebook.com/events/496992113692355/


Author Description

Cynthia Baseman

Cynthia Baseman is the author of 'Love, Mom: A Mother's Journey from Loss to Hope.' She writes about motherhood, the environment and education.

There are 17 comments. Add yours

  1. 8th April 2013 | Jaime Kalman says: Reply
    Thank you for another relatable & relevant article! I counseled a senior client whose adult children wanted her to stop driving a few years ago and it was very touching to learn all of the reasons why it was so painful for my client to surrender her license & keys. I was able to help her release the self-judgment and embarrassment around it and together we listed all the benefits to her not driving herself. In fact, her massage therapist (who she loved & had known for years) offered to be her "driving buddy" for appointments & errands on certain days so that it felt more comfortable for her rather than hiring an expensive car service or taxi. They got to enjoy each others' company and my client didn't feel that it was as obvious to her peers that she was not driving herself. It's a nice reminder that solutions we would never expect can show up for us!
    • 8th April 2013 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      Having you there must have been a huge help to her overcoming the change in her life. Maybe in other communities driving isn't such a big deal, but here in LA having wheels is very much a part of who we and as you pointed out, giving them up is not easy.
  2. 3rd April 2013 | carpoolgoddess says: Reply
    My mom stopped driving (which drove me crazy!) a few years ago because she got used to her husband driving her everywhere. Now that her husband is having some health issues she's afraid to drive. I suggested getting lessons again, but she declined.
    • 3rd April 2013 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      All you can do is suggest -- and help her find wheels unless you want to start hauling her around:)
      • 3rd April 2013 | MAMACITA says: Reply
        Great article. It is an important problem when to relinquish the wheels of independence. I on the other hand would love to have a personal driver and not have the problems of congested life on the road. In the mean time I still am driving. But behind the vail of of uncertainty I am practicing on my BICYCLE.
    • 3rd April 2013 | Estee Bienstock says: Reply
      If she is not sure of herself, then definitely DO NOT encourage her to drive. It is difficult enough to have people driving when they feel they are sure of themselves and are not steady, or too quick with their responses. There are enough community resources and yes possibly you having to help our parents out in the community. If you allow someone to drive that should not be driving or does not feel confident on the road, LETHAL weapon. Be safe not sorry.
  3. 3rd April 2013 | Christina Simon says: Reply
    I know of situations when the person has willingly given up the keys and others where they deny there is any problem (in one case a very serious injury resulted from an accident).
  4. 2nd April 2013 | ejalexander says: Reply
    This is a very tough issue and you've covered it well. If anyone is interested, the NCJW is hosting a Life Transitions workshop on Sunday, 4/28, 10 am to 2 pm (only $15 includes lunch!) The breakout sessions include discussions for women at three (very broad) stages of life: "The Quarterlife Crisis" (for 20-somethings), the Sandwich Generation (dealing with job, marriage, kids, elderly parents, etc.) and the Third Chapter for women at retirement age. More information is here: http://jwcsc.org/lifetransitions/.
  5. 2nd April 2013 | Claudette Robinson says: Reply
    Hi Cynthia: I love your articles. Keep them coming. Have a wonderful year and may God bless you. Cr.
    • 2nd April 2013 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      Coming from you, that means a great deal to me. Thank you, C.
  6. 2nd April 2013 | Elaine says: Reply
    We are facing with this issue on both sides of our family. It is a sensitive situation for everyone involved. Thanks for shedding light on the subject. What did we do before you started your blog BH Mom?!
    • 2nd April 2013 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      I try to imagine what it would be like for me hearing from my kids...don't think I'd be very 'appreciative' of The Talk, either.
      • 3rd April 2013 | Jim bennett says: Reply
        A tough position to have to take. When it's your mom or dad (I felt like a traitor) there is no easy way to take charge and limit their independence. :(
  7. 2nd April 2013 | Robin Bender says: Reply
    I actually hired Estee's company to help my mom - I wouldn't let her drive AND she needed major assistance at home! She's in a nursing home now so I'd give anything to have those days at home back again. Little could I imagine when I was growing up in BH that these days would come . Cherish every moment with them.
    • 2nd April 2013 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      A good reminder to live each day to the fullest. I'm glad that when you needed it, you had the crucial support for your mom.
  8. 2nd April 2013 | Ellen Lutwak says: Reply
    Your articles are so well written; this one in particular. Warm, funny and empathetic as well as urgent and imperative. It made me even more aware that the Talk with my parents is not too far down the road.
    • 2nd April 2013 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      Do you think it would be easier if I talk to your folks and you talked to mine? The volume of the conversation would probably be more tolerable...

Say Something, Why Don't Ya?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.