94% say the car keys conversation is uncomfortable
1 out of 4 say they won’t do it!
April, 2014 – Imagine the most uncomfortable conversation you could have with your parents. Is it about finances? Kids? End of life plans? Here’s a talker just in time for Mother’s Day.
A national poll reveals more than 3 out of 4 (79%) adult children say telling their parents they’re taking away their car keys because they’re no longer fit to drive is THE MOST uncomfortable conversation they could have with them. In fact, 1 out of 4 (25%) adult children say they will avoid having this conversation altogether, despite their safety concerns.
The national survey of 400 adults, whose parents are both living, 65 or older and currently driving, was commissioned by Visiting Angels, one of our nation’s largest in-home senior care companies with more than 450 offices throughout the country.
A Nationally Uncomfortable Conversation
Nearly all, (94%) of respondents predict the conversation about taking away their parents’ car keys will be uncomfortable.
And when asked to pick the three most uncomfortable conversations they could ever have with their parents, they chose in this order …
1) taking away their parents’ car keys 2) talking about their parents’ end of life plans and 3) talking with their parents about sex.
Avoiding the Conversation
- More than one third (35%) say no one should have the conversation with their parents about taking away their car keys – it’s too uncomfortable to address with them.
- More than half (55%) say their sibling/s should have the conversation with parent/s.
Mom vs. Dad
3 out of 4 adult children surveyed believe Dad will be more upset if he can’t drive anymore. And 66% say it will be more uncomfortable to have the conversation with Dad than Mom.
When asked how their parents will react to the car keys conversation …
- Nearly 3 out of 4 (74%) say Dad is more likely than Mom to get angry, refuse to give up his car keys (75%), stop speaking to you (62%), deny there is a problem (78%), and take away some of the inheritance (70%).
- Mom is more likely than Dad to cry (89%), say she’s relieved she doesn’t have to drive any more (75%) and agree with you and hand over her car keys (70%).
The Solution to the Uncomfortable Conversation
Visiting Angels has created a Senior Driving Safety program that can help families address this issue without causing conflict.
Visiting Angels in-home caregivers …
- Are an extra set of eyes and ears for families at home – is Mom on medication that makes her drowsy? Is Dad’s hearing getting bad? Are there new dents in the car?
- Act as a mediator for families during the car keys conversation with senior parents.
- Drive seniors to the doctor or the grocery store - the top two places respondents worry their parents can’t visit if they can’t drive.
- The Visiting Angels survey also reveals 56% of adult children don’t know home care agencies offer this transportation service.
- Visiting Angels created a Senior Passenger Aboard sticker that seniors can proudly put on their vehicle while their caregiver drives them where they need to go. This sticker alerts drivers to be cautious around this vehicle, as seniors are more likely to be injured or killed in traffic crashes due to age-related vulnerabilities, such as fragile bones (AAA).
What's So Stressful About Taking Away Parents' Care Keys?
- The majority (61%) of respondents fear their parents will become depressed if they can’t drive.
- Nearly half (45%) say it will in some way damage their relationship with their parents.
- 42% say they worry they’ll now have to drive their parents around.
“We often hear how families dread the ‘car keys’ conversation because it’s uncomfortable, emotionally charged and can strip their parents’ feelings of pride and independence. That’s why we started the Senior Driving Safety Program,” says Larry Meigs, CEO of Visiting Angels. “Our caregivers can help mediate the conversation and drive parents around so they’re not socially isolated and can get wherever they want to go. Plus, our caregivers are trained to spot elderly driving problems adult children often miss.”
Did You Know?
Adult children often look for obvious signs parents shouldn’t drive anymore like scratches on the car or inaccurate driving. But health issues can also severely impact senior driving.
- Arthritis - 80% of people in their 70s suffer from arthritis. Weaker muscles, reduced flexibility and limited range of motion restrict senior drivers’ ability to grip and turn the steering wheel, press the accelerator or brake, or reach to open doors and windows (AAA).
- Diabetes - may affect how drivers interpret and react to the driving environment (AAA).
- Blood sugar levels can cause sleepiness, dizziness, confusion, blurred vision, loss of consciousness, seizures, nerve damage in hands/legs/feet, etc. (American Diabetes Association).
Yet only 3% of survey respondents say their parent(s)’ diabetes or arthritis (8%) would prompt them to take away the keys.
“Health issues are hidden dangers for elderly drivers that caregivers in our Senior Driving Safety Program are trained to spot,” says Meigs. “Caregivers can gently suggest they drive, and seniors are often relieved. Many seniors don’t feel comfortable driving but don’t want to burden their children to drive them around, so a caregiver who drives is a solution that keeps everyone happy.”