When Mom Drives it Makes Me Worry

July 23, 2012

senior driving

The call came at 8 p.m. on a Wednesday night.

“Hello, I’m looking for Mrs. Catherine Reed. Is Mrs. Reed available?”

I frowned, not recognizing the voice.

“This is Mrs. Reed speaking,” I affirmed.

“Mrs. Reed, I’m from Roper Hospital, and I’m calling because you are listed as the emergency contact for Florence Goodwin. Mrs. Goodwin has been brought in because she was in a car accident earlier this evening.”

I sucked in my breath. I had been worrying that something like this might happen. Mom still insisted on driving, but her reflexes weren’t what they had been ten years ago, and in the past few months she had had a couple of fender-benders. I could feel my heart pounding as I raced for my coat and car keys even while I was still on the phone with the hospital. The reassuring voice at the other end confirmed that, thank goodness, Mom was okay. She was a little shaken and the car, which had a big dent in the driver’s side front fender, had been towed to a garage, but otherwise everything was going to be okay.

Arriving at the hospital half an hour later, I felt a rush of relief as I caught sight of my mother, cozily wrapped in a shawl and sipping tea. I hadn’t realized how tense I was even though the woman at the hospital had told me that Mom was okay. I gave her a big hug.

“What happened?” I asked. “You really scared me.”

Mom cast her eyes down and looked embarrassed.

“It’s really not something to fuss about. I was trying to get my pills out of my purse while I was driving, and I drifted into the other lane. There was a car coming in the opposite direction, and we couldn’t swerve out of each other’s way in time. Fortunately the young man who was in the other car is fine too.”

I put an arm around her, and said gently, “Mom, I know we’ve talked about this before, but maybe it’s time to start seriously considering ways we can limit how much you drive.”

She looked at me with incomprehension. “But sweetheart, you know your father can’t drive anymore. What would we do? How would we get to doctor’s visits? How would I visit your Aunt Rose anymore?”

“We’ll find a way,” I said soothingly. “I’m just worried about you. I know this accident was small, but it could have been so much worse, and it’s the third one in the past six months. I just want to keep you safe. Jim and I don’t mind running errands and taking you places, and Noah got his license last month and is just itching for excuses to drive. I’m sure he’d love to spend some more time with you too.”

She looked doubtful, but over the next few weeks we worked out a plan. My husband and I found time to take Mom and Dad to doctor’s appointments. A discussion with our local Agency on Aging revealed that the town provides transportation for seniors to places such as grocery stores and the downtown area. We discovered too that the AARP offers driving courses for the elderly, to help them adjust their driving habits. However, these days, mom rarely drives, and I worry about her much less than I did when she was regularly on the road.

Have any tips on dealing with situations like this? Share your thoughts with us below or on our Caregiver Forum

Jason Sager, Owner Home Instead Senior Care Fairfax, Virginia

We hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or if you know of a senior who could benefit from our vast array of home care services in the Fairfax area , please call us at 703.750.6644, or email us. We accept most long term care insurance as payment and have a full time staff of trained and certified home care personnel covering the Fairfax County, Virginia area.

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