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Santa Barbara Elder Law Attorney: When is it Time to Take Away the Car Keys?

Posted by Julianna Malis | Jul 07, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Santa Barbara Elder Law Attorney Julianna Malis

One of the hardest things a senior must come to grips with is that he or she can no longer operate an automobile safely. However, this is not usually something they'll admit to themselves, even if they know it's the truth. Most of the time it is up to their adult children to determine when it's time to take away their elderly parent's car keys and make alternative transportation arrangements for them. Here are some of the warning signs you should look out for if you're worried about your elderly parent continuing to get behind the wheel:

Overall Health

Unfortunately, as people age, their health declines, and this can have a profound impact on a senior's ability to drive. If your parent has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or another form of dementia, then it's time for them to stop getting behind the wheel. General physical frailty can also be dangerous for seniors operating automobiles since they may not be able to do things like firmly grip the steering wheel or check blind spots.

Different Medications

Make sure you stay on top of the medications your elderly parent is taking since they could have a profound negative effect on their ability to drive. Any medication that causes drowsiness or confusion should be closely monitored, and you should check with your parents' doctor to find out if there are any side effects from taking a combination of medications. This is also especially important if your parent drinks any amount of alcohol since drinking does not often mix well with certain medications.

Loss of Hearing or Sight and Slowed Reflexes

Your parent's senses and reflexes are essential to good driving, and if they're impaired in any way, it could lead to a tragedy on the road. A loss of vision can lead to confusion and accidents with other cars and pedestrians, while a loss of hearing can affect your parent's ability to hear horns and sirens. Slowed reflexes will make it much more likely that your parent can't hit the brakes in time or avoid dangerous situations that can lead to an accident.

Once you've made the decision to take the car keys from your parent, you need to have a plan in place to make sure they can get around and get their errands taken care of. This means you might have to assign family members to take your parent grocery shopping, to doctor appointments, and to pick up prescriptions. If this isn't a possibility, you should contact a senior transportation service to make sure your parent is not stranded with no way to get out.

If you think it is time for your parent to stop driving and you'd like more advice, please contact our Santa Barbara estate and elder law firm at (805) 965-1550 to set up a consultation.  We'd be happy to guide you through the decisions you may need to start making during this time.

About the Author

Julianna Malis

Julianna Malis, Attorney at Law, LL.M (Taxation-Estate Planning) Julianna helps families stop worrying about the ‘what ifs’ in life, and instead prepare for life events through proper estate planning. As the founder of Santa Barbara Estate Planning Law Group, she brings a family-centered approach to planning, with a focus on practical solutions for families and high net worth individuals...


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