How can I gently approach the subject of handing over the car keys with my dad?

6 answers | Last updated: Feb 06, 2013
Grandma george asked...

My father has mild Parkinson's and is forgetful. He is also very proud and stubborn. How can I approach him about giving up driving without angering him? Much change has occured in recent months which included giving up a lot of control, so he is very sensitive.

Expert Answers

Elizabeth Dugan, a Fellow of the Gerontology Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston, is the author of Driving Dilemma: The Complete Resource Guide for Older Drivers and Their Families.

It's time to work closely with your father's health care providers. Driving requires the ability to see, think, and move. Parkinson's symptoms and treatments may impair driving fitness and it sounds like your father has both cognitive and motor skill issues.

Get to know your father's health care providers and explain the situation to them. During his next appointment the healthcare provider could raise the issue. You can be a resource to help your father deal with limits or cessation of driving.

The last chapters of life can be tough for the older person and his loved ones, but your father's pride and strength may actually help him to face and adapt to these unwanted challenges.  Let him know you are on his side and proud of the many changes he has faced in the past. Making a change in driving isn't easy, but knowing he has your love and support will help make a bad situation better.

Community Answers

Rob answered...

 In addition to suggestions that have health care providers being the "bad guy," (which is good), there are programs in some cities (like Boston) where free, or low-cost driving tests are offered for elders, and the health care people care refer her father to them. Also,  if she's in a small town the local police might be able to help by talking with her father in a friendly way about his driving and if necessary, ask him to "hang it up."

Jaime912 answered...

I went through this very thing with my own mother. It's a hard thing for someone to feel like they are giving up their freedom.. Can you imagine? All I can tell you is that it takes persistent, subtle gestures at first. When that doesn't work, then, Yes, go to DR and request that a driving test is ordered. My mother didn't get that far, though. It took her getting into a minor accident (only involving herself) where she realized someone else could have been hurt by her actions. I hope you find the way to get those keys from him soon. God bless!

Bubbe answered...

Work with his doctor... we had the same concerns with my husband who was diagnosed with LBD at age 56, so the doctor recommended that he be tested for his driving ability. We made an appointment with Easter Seals and they did a full test: cognitive and driving. Needless to say, he failed miserably. It was very hard for him to accept this but it was easier coming from a neutral party. And when he complains that he should be able to drive, I point out that I didn't make the decision; the experts did.

Mullet1957 answered...

My husband is 80 with Parkinson's and dementia. I tried for years to get him to quit driving. He allowed me to drive when we went out of town but not in town. It took a fender-bender with another car and me asking the police officer to request a driving evaluation from the state to get him out from behind the wheel. Every person is different. My husband was a successful businessman used to giving orders and having others follow them. I am now the bad guy because he can't drive. But that's ok. He is safe and so is every other passenger on the road.

Ladydawn answered...

If he lives alone, then it is going to be a problem surrendering the keys and you definitly have a problem.

There is no reason that you can't involve his doctor(s)in this project. You can request that they ask him and make a testing referral for him as part of his care.

There is also a self assessment offered by The Hartford who in partnership with MIT developed a self test which should actually be considered by every doctor of a dementia or AD patient.
Although the problem in a PD patient may be somewhat different: slowed reaction time and impaired ability to actually move, vision issues, these are enough to include doctors of those patients as well.

You can find the link to the self assessment test here:[]

My suggestion is that his doctors be given this information along with a print out of the self-assessment. One less appointment and it has a strictly medical approach. Which when you think about it is the motivation: safety of the patient and safety of the public.

Since the testing is not official, he would not have to give up his license yet. That license is really helpful and important to anyone who has one. As long as the insurance is paid, he will be able to keep the license until the next renewal when he will need to get another state ID.

These conditions are so sad as they rob people of their identities. Having the information about getting the State ID at your fingertips might help because as soon as the keys are turned in, there has to be a plan for replacing the license with something tangible for ID.