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The Best Way to Talk to Aging Adults About Driving

When you raise the issue of driving with your parents or other older adults, your approach may determine the outcome.

By , Caring.com senior editor
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How to approach the issue of driving

What's the best way to approach your parents or other older adults about their driving abilities? In The Driving Dilemma, Elizabeth Dugan encourages adult children and caregivers to use open-ended questions and reflective listening techniques when they raise the driving issue.

Beginning the conversation with an open-ended question invites them to explore and express their feelings. This is far more effective than starting off with an emphatic statement -- no matter how accurate -- which is likely to get the conversation off on the wrong foot.

Consider these two examples (you can substitute the appropriate name or form of address you use for the person you're caring for):

Emphatic statement: "Mom, you nearly hit that car at the intersection near the grocery store today, and that's not the first time. You need to stop driving!"

Open-ended question: "Mom, you seemed really tense while we were driving to the grocery store today, and you had a little trouble at that traffic light. How is driving going for you these days?"

The emphatic statement certainly will get her attention, but it's also apt to make her angry. She'll feel compelled to defend herself rather than to give careful thought to what you said. On the other hand, the second approach encourages her to express her own concerns about her driving.