Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Thoughts on @BlogHer Article: Taking away Mom's Keys

Did I tell you that I needed to practice driving when I returned to Portland? It seems that my husband had driven all winter in Arizona and even when I do drive down there. it is very easy. Driving in the Portland Metro area is not. I told my children about this because I wanted them to know. It is a worry for me. I guess that is why this article on BlogHer hit a nerve. It was called Taking Away Mom's Keys. 

The story went like this:
Sandra Tyler is a writer and owns a blog called A Writer Weaves a Tale. Tyler wrote this morning about her mother. Her mother, age 93, was summoned to the Motor Vehicle Department because they felt the need to see if her driving skills were up to par. After being tested for her skills while driving, the elderly woman lost her license because her driving scared the tester so badly it made her ill. The old woman pleaded for her freedom to drive. "I don't go far. But I need to go up this block, turn right, then a left here to get my mail and groceries." she told the official at the DMV Window 22. The daughter saw her mother humiliated in public and still faced the problem of taking away her car keys. The question left hanging in the air was at what age do seniors need to give up driving? I could only think about the day I myself face the dreaded official tending Window #22 at the DMV.

Earlier this winter I wrote a post about starting the conversation with my children about my diminishing skills as I age. I was thinking that there were things my children and I needed to discuss now and not later. It was called 5 Conversation Starters with My Children. The third item on that list was:
  1. 3. How will you handle "traveling problems" if they should occur? This may include a discussion about whether we should even drive. (I also had in mind traveling with a suitcase overseas.)
If I were asked by a younger person how to handle the awkward situations they are going to face in the future with their parents, the two pieces of advice I would give them would be....
  • Treat your parents like respected elders at all times 
  • Start the discussions early. For example, don't wait until the day arrives when Mom or Dad cannot drive anymore. Talk about that dreaded day now. You will not regret it. 
You see, aging parents know when their driving skills are going south and it scares them too. They are afraid they will hurt someone and they are afraid of a world where they are isolated because they cannot drive. Parents also know when they should not live alone without assistance and when they need help with their finances. The real problem is that they have never talked about it with their children so no one knows how the others feel. I am sure it must be a horrible feeling for everyone. The ship is sinking and the children cannot talk the parent into getting in the lifeboat. They should have had a safety plan before they were set adrift at sea.

Start the conversations now, talk often and sincerely about worries and above all, keep a good sense of humor. It will get you through many a very rough spot. So there you have it...from the lips of a real expert.

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  1. Interesting story! I must say I enjoyed reading this lovely story and have great time here. Thanks for sharing such awesome post.

  2. It was very difficult to tell my mom it was not safe for her to drive anymore. I think she knew, though, and was maybe even relieved, even though she was afraid of what it meant for her independence.

    Great advice to talk about sensitive things in advance.

  3. thank you for siting my blogher post and sorry though it hit such a nerve. I guess it did for me too. Interesting your take on the car keys since taking them away is no longer an issue; she won't drive knowing she doesn'thave her license. But if someene else hadn't taken away her license, then that would have been the alternative. Anyway, I actually think a lot of senior drivers are safer than the kids out there. 70 is young!! 93 is over the top. I just needed someone else let her know that.

  4. Kristy, Thank you for stopping by. Hope to see you again soon.


  5. Galen,

    I think your experience speaks to what we all know. Quitting is very hard and a helping hand goes a long way.


  6. Sandra,

    Your article was so beautiful. I agree, 70 is not old because I am 70 (71 in Nov.). Heaven only know I have many years left.

    I suppose the real truth is that no matter the age, if you are a really bad driver you should not be driving. Teens and 70 year old included!

    Be well.


  7. You've hit the nail on the head. As we age, we are afraid we'll hurt someone and afraid we'll be isolated. Having a conversation early with your children is a great idea.


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