Has anyone had to have the ‘driving’ conversation with an elderly parent?

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  • Has anyone had to have the ‘driving’ conversation with an elderly parent?
  • IHN

    My dad is 76 and has always been the driver (mum doesn’t drive)

    I’ve not been in a car with him for ages when he’s been driving, but a week or so ago my sister mentioned to him that ‘someone’ (looking at me) should probably have a word with him as she’s worried about him being a danger. He has pretty severe arthritis in one of his hands so he has no real dexterity or grip with it and is generally a bit stiffer/slower than he used to be, and I doubt his reactions/observation skills are what they once were.

    He is by no means decrepit though, they’re both very active socially, he’s in the Ramblers so drives to his walks most weekends, they travel about 100 miles to see grandkids regularly. They’re both still completely with it mentally too and, generally, are pretty young at heart.

    Thing is, if my mum’s not noticed anything about his driving (and she probably wouldn’t), as soon as I bring it up she’ll start worrying. It’ll be a massive whack to his pride, and if he needs to stop it’ll have a huge effect on their lives.

    I suppose my first step is to engineer something for me to see how his driving actually is and go from there, but has anyone been through this, any tips?


    Not yet but I can foresee it coming in the next year or so.
    My dad is 84 and still drives regularly, only does around 5k miles a year, doesn’t drive in the dark if it is at all avoidable and will get a lift from me/someone else if it is an option for any trips.
    Mum pretty much doesn’t drive now, still has a license but finds it too tiring/stressful so chooses not to.

    Dad and I will go out every few weeks, generally I drive but I’ll make sure that he takes a turn (in his car) occasionally largely so I can see how he’s driving.

    So far I’m comfortable that he’s fine on the roads but I’m already steeling myself for that conversation.

    I think many people regard car ownership as a symbol of their freedom to travel When & where they want so even if they don’t really use the car very much at all or could manage fine without one.
    The symbolic loss of freedom can have much more impact than the actual practicalities of situation.1

    TBF I’m hoping that he’ll hang up his driving gloves voluntarily before I or my sister have to have a word.

    You have my sympathies, it’s not an easy subject to tackle.

    Premier Icon MoreCashThanDash

    Some local authorities, charities and I think IAM offer assessments of older drivers to offer advice on where they need to improve and/or think about stopping.

    My parents are on the cusp, but actually both aware of this, and thinking how they will get about without a car.


    It’s on the cards for my wife with her Dad, he had to have the chat with his own Mum a few years ago and that lead to a few weeks of tensions between them. He always said he wanted to know before it was a problem, but no one wants to have that conversation. He does have former TFL employment so gets a good deal on train tickets and always comes to us by train.

    These things are never easy, is it possible to have the chat with just your Dad so your Mum doesn’t get involved yet OP?


    Didn’t listen to a word we said and still had a car at 94.

    Didn’t drive it since he was 85 though.  As above it was a pride thing.


    These things are never easy, is it possible to have the chat with just your Dad so your Mum doesn’t get involved yet OP?

    Yes, but he will tell my mum that I’d mentioned it. They communicate, I guess that’s the secret of being genuinely happily married for nearly 60 years…

    TBH, I could probably do with him having a minor prang as an ‘in’ to the conversation.

    Can you ask his GP to have a word?


    Yeah, maybe. I need to get in a car with him first though, my sister can be know for being over-critical. There are two ways to do anything; he way and the wrong way…

    Premier Icon downshep

    I have a road policing background and have seen the tragic consequences of elderly driver misjudgments time and again. Younger relatives are often reluctant to intervene due to the impact on mobility, independence, pride, family relationships etc. This isn’t doing anyone a favour and sometimes we need to be cruel to be kind. One family knew why we were at the door as soon as they answered it, as their dad’s terrible driving was a running joke. Sadly their dad had killed mum in the crash and seriously injured himself.

    I had to ‘discuss’ giving up driving with two of my elderly relatives for their own sake and for those they share the roads with. Both had had own fault crashes with no injury to third parties, which made it easier. One had been charged but these were dropped on proof of him surrendering the licence.

    Even if no crash occurs, we owe it to them to intervene. If they don’t listen, contact their GP citing near misses, late reactions, vision problems, inability to carry out shoulder checks, grip the wheel, brake firmly etc. There’s also the ironically named ‘at a glance’ guide; a long list of notifiable medical conditions, many age related, that GPs have access to.
    (At a glance guide)

    The GP can report to DVLA Medical Branch who, on receipt of information, can note but take no action, investigate further, restrict driving or revoke the licence temporarily or permanently on medical grounds.

    Intervention places pressure on family members to do more running around but it’s far better than the alternative.


    We very nearly had to tell FIL about his driving as he was regularly bumping into things when parking – usually street furniture. His eyesight wasn’t good and co-ordination going – he wasn’t the best of drivers even before then. Fortunately he had to stop for a while due to needing oxygen – we stopped him getting in his car with the gas tank. He still drove a little when recovered, but that soon stopped with lung cancer – late stages.

    You probably need to go out with him and see what his driving is like. Our tell tales were him not spotting us (we lived locally), having been in the car with him and the lots of little knocks on a new car with reversing cameras and sensors.


    Yes*, but I was luckily and dad self policed and was policed by mum before she died and he knew the day would come, and luckily?? it came before Alzheimer’s really got going on him. He just let his driving world get smaller and smaller, firstly wouldn’t drive to airport to get me when I flew up to Scotland to visit (fast, strange roads he wasn’t used to, even though it was only 30 miles), then no night driving, then as never at busy times and as few right turns as possible and then after a few hints ( do you really the need the car now as mum always walks to the shops and you’re not out and about as much, I reckon a taxi every so often would be cheaper, it must cost you a few bob to keep that going, you know you don’t really enjoy driving anymore etc etc etc) but before I felt I really had to lay down the law(I had a planned speech/arguments, something like, dad, you hardly drive now, it’s costing tax, mot, insurance, servicing and a taxi up and down town is only a fiver, how often do you actually use it, so stop being silly, your sight is going, you’re reactions are going, you’ll be in deep trouble if you hit someone etc, mum thinks you should stop, etc etc etc)the car suddenly disappeared and it was no longer a problem. He still did his wee gardening round after that, he was the dozy old git who pushed a lawnmower, chainsaw and shears etc, on a trolley up and down the town so he could do the grass etc for his favourite customers.

    We had to do this with an elderly neighbour who had become a terrifying driver too watch.  The conversation didn’t end well and after he came out of hospital after sepsis a few months later he was even worse.

    I emailed the DVLA confidential concerns about a driver address for want of a better term.   He had to go and see his GP, who signed off on the paperwork as safe to carry on without checking him over.  By this stage he was doing 20mph tops in the middle of the road, going round corners at walking pace and braking when he saw oncoming traffic.   This let him carry on driving for another few months till he saw a new GP who recommended he stop after he went to see him about another matter.


    My mum red carded herself when her eyesight began to fail, a friend’s grandad had to be stopped at 80 when he started going round roundabouts the wrong way, although he still tried to insist he was fine, he’d been a danger and a menace on the roads for years.

    Premier Icon crazy-legs

    Yes, my grandfather as mentioned in the Alzheimer’s thread

    He’d always loved his long drives, they used to “just pop up” to Scotland (from near Liverpool) regularly, they had a caravan so they’d go away in that but as my g/mother got more and more ill with Alzheimers, she was unable to cope with that so all the driving became local stuff – shops, friends and so on. Where they lved was horrendous for facilites or public transport. Half a mile walk to a garage, pub and corner shop at the end of the road (there was a bus stop there too) and other than that, nothing. A fair old drive into town for any proper shops, no train, just the irregular bus.

    anyway, things got worse and worse as his eyesight and reactions deteriorated and as the stress of looking after my g/mother took it’s toll on him. He had quite a big car (from caravan towing duties) and it was getting properly banged up as he’d hit parked cars, trees, fences, walls etc when parking it cos he couldn’t judge the size of it.

    He then got pulled over for driving too slowly one night – the raindrops and dazzle from oncoming lights confused him completely and he was doing about 20mph in a 50 zone when the police pulled him. They drove him home and his neighbour (who’d always looked out for him, was a sound bloke) went mental at him saying he should have asked for a lift. So word got back to my Mum, we tried telling him to sell the car and use the money to pay for taxis but he wouldn’t have it. Loss of independence, didn’t want to be a burden on others etc. He was always really stubborn, he knew best…

    What did it eventually was the insurance simply got too much. He’d had that many minor prangs, dings and scrapes (always “oh it was that other idiot…”) that he simply couldn’t afford it. He tried to get a smaller car but the neighbour cottened onto it and wouldn’t let him. By that time his health was nowhere near up to it anyway and he didn’t put up much of a fight. Then the doctor revoked his licence anyway as his own Alzheimer’s diagnosis came in (and under pressure from my Mum).

    Had a similar situation with my rural dwelling late grandfather. Hedges on lanes were to him what the rails on a bowling lane are to small children. My uncle took executive action one weekend when my grandfather was having a taster session at a nursing home and sold the car. It was never mentioned 😀

    The issue of GP’s knowing people are unfit but not doing anything is a long running bone of contention between my wife (practice nurse at the local GP) and I. I think there’s a point where their duty to the public outweighs their confidentiality obligations, and unsafe drivers is across that line. Apparently some in the medical profession think it’s best left for the patient to decide.


    Lady at work missed a meeting we had scheduled. When I caught up with her later in the week turns out an older gent had bumped into her car. Gent’s daughter was very apologetic and said it was the third time this year! Colleague felt guilty that by claiming on insurance For minor damage it might mean he would lose his car due to insurance cost. My thought it was lucky it was a car & not a person injured!


    Is he local?

    Gloucestershire Older Persons Driving Forum

    I’ve had a talk with my dad about him driving & ageing, I hope to reduce his long drive up to us by collecting / dropping him & mum off, he’s happy to pootle around local to him, but acknowledges that a time will come to hand in his licence.

    @ 76 how frequent is the DVLA GP sign off?

    Premier Icon matt_outandabout


    Back in the day my mother and brothers asked grandpa to stop. He was struggling with eyesight and mobility to actually look around at junctions. He denied an issue. The family knew the family doctor, who played a good one and next time he saw my grandpa he asked him to take a quick sight test. My grandpa had enough respect for family doctor that he surrendered the keys in the surgery and accepted a taxi home… I had to pop up the next day to take his car to the garage to sell and meet my uncle who had nicked the V5. Grandpa called the doctor two days later and asked for his car back…

    I’ve also just chatted to my dad this summer. His eyesight is going. Night driving is now off the cards and he has agreed to get rid of the keys once my sister moves back from abroad in the spring. I think he is being very pragmatic, but actually selling the thing may be more of an issue than speaking about it…

    Premier Icon reluctantjumper

    Yep, did it with my dad last year.

    It wasn’t hard to bring it up in conversation though as he initiated it while I drove him home from hospital on evening, he couldn’t see the traffic or roadside and had to ask me where on the journey we were as he didn’t recognise any corners on the road we were on. Seeing as the road hasn’t changes in 30 years and he’s been driving it almost daily in that time it had him worried. We went out for a short drive together in the daytime in his car and I assessed him at the end of the drive. He wasn’t bad but it was obvious he was struggling. As he used to race classic cars back in the 70’s he was used to taking instructions from other drivers as he reularly got driving coaching to make him faster. He took everything I said in and said there and then that he would drive less over that summer and stop before the nights started drawing in.

    Over that summer I got a few things in place so that he could get the regular stuff like shopping done without driving. Home deliveries set up, prescriptions delivered etc. My mum can still drive (she’s 17 years younger than him) although she has times she won’t go out (has depression and an underactive thyroid) so he sold his car and they went down to one car only. I have set up an account with the local taxi firm too so he can call them whenever he needs to for local journeys, he uses that regularly. Especially if it’s cold or raining when he leaves the pub! Due to other health issues detailed here he’s not driven now for over 7 months, the last time was when my mum was ill and he had to get to the local surgery, it was only a mile but that mile was enough for him to decide to never drive again as he no longer felt confident.

    It is a hell of a lot easier if the parent is cooperative with the situation but if they’re not see if you can look into ways of making their lives easier and removing the need to drive. There’s so many home delivery services for everything and services like taxis that with a bit of gentle persuasion you could possibly help them make the decision not to drive any more themselves.


    Yes, my father and ultimately as his geriatric consultant warned it was the beginning of the end and he deteriorated fast once he lost his independence. He was in a nursing home within months but at least didn’t kill anyone else.

    On the other hand my ex-neighbour (now passed away) but was in his 80’s and he’d scratched his new car twice getting into his garage. (We knew him well and looked after him and checked on him, OH took him meals etc. had spare keys and let in care workers etc.and I’d also helped him get the car picked up and fixed) TBH I thought it was him until he got kept in hospital for an extended stay and his (younger) friend drove his car back and asked me if I could put it in the garage.
    Bugger me… both mirrors folded in he had at best an inch either side that had to be reversed into and perhaps 6″ at the far end.
    Obviously someone elses car but it took me a good 15 mins to get the car into his garage! (and I’m pretty good at it)

    So I guess moral is … if it’s time it’s time but don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions.


    I had a phone call from a policeman. My father had hit a parked car then left the scene. He was flagged down as he came back past after going to the supermarket. He hopelessly failed a roadside eye test, so the policeman gave him the option of voluntarily surrendering his license or get taken to court. My father wasn’t having any of it so they called me to persuade him. He did after I told him he’d loose it anyway in court and he could end up killing someone. But it was a massive blow and a big step in his eventual decline.

    Premier Icon hot_fiat

    Yes, with my father in law. First time was after he destroyed a clutch in a brand new car in 10000 miles. Second time was after I found out he’d gone around a major roundabout the wrong way (for those in the north east the A1(m) /A183 at Chester le Street!). That was it. Got him to surrender his license and dispense with the car. I think that was the turning point when everyone else in the family finally “got” the fact that his Alzheimer’s was real and not just post-retirement boredom.

    TBH he scared me witless before that. He drove into his garage with the tailgate open twice in his first panda, once in his second and once in a note he owned before either of them. The week before I had the chat he managed to wedge the car diagonally in the garage, but still somehow dent every panel on the offside. He came over to ours to ask for some t-cut to buff the scratches out. What it needed was two new doors, a front wing and some extensive PDR on the nearside rear quarter.

    Premier Icon epicyclo

    My observation is that once the car goes the health downward slide happens quickly.

    Not sure if that’s because it’s a case of people “giving up” after losing their car or if it’s more they were well down the slope by the time the car had to go. Or maybe both.

    In a society where there’s very few small nuclear societies anymore, just about everything you need to do involves travelling further than walking distance, so loss of a car is a big thing, and very isolating.

    More pedestrian (and cycle) friendly town planning would help, but it’s too late for most suburbs. Autonomous vehicles may be one solution as would be better than barely adequate public transport.

    When you think from first principles, our current transport system is bonkers. Soft squishy humans (cyclists and pedestrians) less than a metre away from heavy fast moving machinery weighing tons.

    Imagine trying to get that past H&S if it wasn’t our norm. Now stick folk with declining eyesight and reactions into the mix…

    Premier Icon Dickyboy

    My brother in law got his dad to take an extended driving test a year or two ago, not sure of exact details but I can find them out if needed. Basically you can say to them if you think you are still good enough to drive, take this test and prove it – if they fail driving licence is taken off them there and then. My fil wanted to know if he could still get an international driving licence 🙄
    Took the car off my dad after using an excuse that it needed a lot of work doing on it, previous to that he had driven to Scotland and back in 24hrs (a round trip of some 600miles) to prove that he was still capable of driving – no dad that’s exactly what you shouldn’t be doing, luckily he was living with us at the time so didn’t experience the drastic lack of mobility but still managed to moan insessantly 😒

    Premier Icon I_did_dab

    Yes, mother-in-law. The car needed major work so we persuaded her that it would be better to give it up and use the money she saved on insurance and petrol for taxis. Of course, she won’t spend money on taxis as the are ‘too expensive’ and waits in the cold for buses instead.

    Premier Icon edhornby

    I have a friend who had to have the chat with an older mate of his named Raymond, he used the economic argument rather than the physical deterioration angle; he gave Raymond the annual cost of the tax, insurance, fuel, maintenance and then showed him that the local taxi firm would do all his trips to the shops etc for less because the car was used so infrequently

    Premier Icon crazy-legs

    My observation is that once the car goes the health downward slide happens quickly.

    Not sure if that’s because it’s a case of people “giving up” after losing their car or if it’s more they were well down the slope by the time the car had to go. Or maybe both.

    Old people now (say 70-80 years of age) are from that generation where car was king and many of them, especially in areas poorly served by public transport won’t have used buses, trains etc in years. It’s so convenient to “just get in the car”, there’s no planning needed (and that’s one of the reasons my grandparents were atrocious at planning anything because it was never a case of wondering what bus/train times and combinations were needed or phoning to book a cab, it was just “get in car”).

    My grandfather never really recovered from the loss of his driving freedom even though ironically he barely used it because he’d become largely incapable.

    My Mum is lucky where she lives in London, she’s still reasonably mobile and will always use public transport as her first option. Because London just works that way.

    Premier Icon BigJohn

    I told my dad he had to stop driving when other family members were petrified of having a lift with him.
    He was angry with me and I kept saying I didn’t want to answer to the widows of the cyclists or motorcyclists that he wasn’t going to notice.
    I arranged for a local driving instructor to give him an assessment. That lasted all of 5 minutes as the instructor had to stop the car due to the dreadful driving.
    For the next couple of years he told everybody that my stopping him was the worst thing ever, but 10 years on, he’s over it and nobody died.

    Premier Icon teesoo

    As long as I’ve known him (about 20 years), my father-in-law had a reputation of being an appallingly bad driver, and most of the family had stories of terrifying experiences whilst in a car with him. Things came to a head about three years ago when he started to suffer from Alzheimers. His GP had said that he was medically fit to drive; however there were a couple of occasions when he had been out in the car shopping (all he really used it for) and then could not remember where he had parked it and we had to go and find it for him. We used this as an excuse to start the conversation that it was time for him to call it a day with driving. He was resistant (and stubborn) at first, but we managed to persuade him that it was financially the best option. He had had a few minor prangs and his insurance was very expensive. Together with the other running costs for the car, he would save about £100 per month by getting taxis to the shops. He has been without a car for about 18 months now and hasn’t really missed it, other than the times when he has forgotten that he sold it and goes to get it out of his garage…

    Premier Icon Rich_s

    Reading this thread with interest as I recently found out that my dad went straight across a crossroads with my eldest son in the car and my mum in the passenger seat. And had absolutely no awareness of what he did.

    I’ve said to mum that I won’t let our kids in the car with him… but at some point I’m going to have to have the chat. Ex-police pursuit driver and class 1 hgv. Not sure he’s going to like it.

    Premier Icon porter_jamie

    I’ve already told my folks years ago as soon as they get too doddery to drive I’m taking the keys away. dad was a fireman and has seen more broken bodies on the road than anyone should have to. I think he will be ok about it.



    I have a friend who had to have the chat with an older mate of his named Raymond, he used the economic argument rather than the physical deterioration angle; he gave Raymond the annual cost of the tax, insurance, fuel, maintenance and then showed him that the local taxi firm would do all his trips to the shops etc for less because the car was used so infrequently

    …..and make it easy…had this conversation with a work colleague…my mum never drove, dad drove but died and she literally walked everywhere but didn’t wear her bifocals…had near misses crossing roads and started to get lost according to my sister …set up a direct dial on phone for local (reliable) taxi co and a box in a draw with compartments to put cash in for each weeks taxi bills…most stuff routine friends / docs / shopping so easily fell in what could afford but needed convincing…my work colleague came to same conclusion…set up an account with a local taxi co and just sorted with his dad to pay it if for some reason went above what his dad could afford …in theory a bit easier now with Uber etc but think a big part of the issue is going thru it all..my MIL won’t use Uber because has to put credit card details in despite using app’s for all sorts, will the Doc’s ring for a taxi? is there a bench at shops to sit and wait, where will taxi pull into etc

    Premier Icon cinnamon_girl

    My mum can still drive (she’s 17 years younger than him) although she has times she won’t go out (has depression and an underactive thyroid)

    reluctantjumper Depression can be caused by a poorly managed thyroid condition. Hypothyroidism is very badly dealt with in the UK, far worse than the rest of the world, not least due to tick box medicine and NICE guidelines that GPs follow. I manage and fund my own hypothyroidism and am happy to provide more info via PM.


    If the issues stem from purely physical problems, are there any aids that can alleviate them? May be worth looking into.


    My closest ever close passes were both one Sunday morning riding into the sun when two elderly men in tiny mini cars with misted up windows failed to see me, one brushing my hip with his wing mirror.

    That may be because older folk don’t keep the fan on low to refresh the air inside the car and don’t understand about plasticiser film.

    Premier Icon Johnny Panic

    I’ve hesitated before putting this down here, but maybe it will help some of you to make the intervention.
    My dad, who was 88 at the time, regularly drove around, to the shops, or on holidays, or occasionally the hundred miles down the motorway to see my brother’s family. I don’t live near him so had no personal experience of his driving for years and no specific reason to suspect it was bad, his partner was comfortable with it, and I knew he was driving sedately. But then I got the phone call in the middle of the night to say he’d been in an accident.
    He was on a 60 limit dual carriageway, doing under 50, approaching a minor road crossing on traffic lights. Came round a slight bend but with plenty of time to see the red light, interpreted it as green and went straight into the side of a car crossing legitimately. He spent a couple of days in hospital. Tragically, the other driver died at the scene.
    This was tough enough for us. I broke the news to him in hospital and he was devastated. I can’t imagine what it was like for the other family. Husband & 2 kids (late teens / early 20’s) left behind. Right up until 2 weeks later when the police showed him the dashcam footage from the other car, he had been absolutely sure the light had been green for him. He gave his license up the next day. He now uses his bus pass a lot more & gets Taxis. It wasn’t hard for him to give up his license, but it did cost someone’s life and untold grief.

    Premier Icon jimmy

    My mum has just got a new car at 74. I have had no concerns til now, she is a good driver. But she was up recently and complaining of sore hands, unable to grip properly “but I’m ok driving because the steering wheel has lumps in it”. She had issues with her mum and insists we shouldn’t let her get like that, but I can see it being not that easy when it comes to it.

    Premier Icon grtdkad

    Yes. I took my dad’s car keys off him when he was 80-ish.
    He’d moved in to a sheltered accommodation in Northumberland and kept absconding to his old house for days on end.
    The care staff had mentioned more and more damage to his car and then he also got lost a few times (on local roads he’d been using for decades).
    I had to step in before he caused harm to other road users (it gets quite touristy in his patch).
    Awful to have to do but really there is no other responsible action if the driver doesn’t recognise it themselves.

    Can you ask his GP to have a word?

    I did contact his GP. Unsuccessfully. They were reluctant to step in because of the rural nature of where they are based. Removing driving license effectively renders folk house-bound. Wrong answer obviously.

    Premier Icon grtdkad

    JohnnyPanic, I feel for you genuinely. That was the scenario I was worried about. Just luck that my dad didn’t cause similar issues to others as he was crossing the A1 on his ventures.

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