We asked The Baptist Home’s Administrators whether it is ok to take away the car keys from an aging parent. Each offered their own unique perspective, which speaks to the diversity of each situation. Every family scenario is as unique and complicated as the personalities and relationships involved. (A beautiful, but challenging reality.)

Common among all three responses is the importance of approaching the situation with patience, God’s love, and a firm sense of your responsibility to your parents and to others they’ll encounter on the road.

With this or any other issue, the experts at The Baptist Home are happy to hear your questions and offer their best insights and suggestions.

Sherri Snider, Administrator, Arcadia Valley Campus, (573) 546-7429, [email protected]

Ruthie Meyers, Administrator, Chillicothe Campus, (660) 646-6219, [email protected]

Sonya Newton, Administrator, Ozark Campus, (417) 581-2101, [email protected]

Here’s what our Administrators had to say …

Sonya Newton, Administrator @ TBH-Ozark
This is always a difficult situation, but I feel honesty is always the best policy. Having the conversation in an open way about the concern for safety and the fear of harm to the loved one or others is best. If that does not work, I would recommend involving the physician. A third party that is neutral and respected could have a positive result without putting a strain on the family dynamic.

Ruthie Meyers, Administrator @ TBH-Chillicothe
I think that as a child it is a very difficult thing to do, but at times it should happen.

I have heard stories of the children talking to the doctor, so they recommend they not drive anymore, but that is tough to get a doctor to do that. The best solution, I have been told, is that you call the State DMV in Jefferson City, and tell them you believe your parents are not safe to drive. The DMV will send a letter telling them they have to go into the office and pass a test to be able to drive. They often cannot pass the test or just give up driving as they do not want to have to go to the DMV.

I understand not throwing people under the bus, but, the other side of this, as cognitive aware people, we try to reason things out. Sometimes a person, whether it is due to cognitive changes or life history, cannot reason anymore. They will never understand or accept that they cannot drive. Their mind’s eye believes they can do what they did 5, 10, or 15 years before. I, myself, am guilty of believing I can do what I did 10 years ago, but my body will not allow it. So you pick your battles. Is it easier to have your parents upset with you for taking away the car or ask the State to test for driving? Will that negatively affect their relationship with the State? Is it more important to be there for your parents? I have also had people tell me they remove parts from the car telling their loved ones it is “broken down” and cannot be repaired. I am not sure what is the best?!?!? I did not have to do this with my parents. I may have to with my in-laws. We are very close to that now. My husband has to remove the keys from his tractors so his dad will not go against what he has discussed with him and move things. My father-in-law destroyed our field cultivator this year, because he did not look back and notice that two wheels were off, and it was up on a jack. He pulled it down the road, across the ditch and through the field before he realized what he had done. And honestly, in his mind, I don’t believe he ever realized he had destroyed a piece of equipment. We were just grateful he did not get hurt or run someone off the road with it.

Sherri Snider, Administrator @ TBH-Arcadia Valley
In Exodus we are told “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”

Sometimes we mistakenly believe that “honoring” is the same as “obeying.” It is not. Honoring involves being respectful and loving, but not necessarily obeying. It is the responsibility of adult children to make sure their parents are safe and cared for. That is not always easy, and parents often resent their children interfering…especially when it comes to giving up the car, which is a major symbol of independence!

Generally, people respond better to being asked, rather than being told…so perhaps asking questions such as, “Do you ever worry about harming someone when you drive?” “Do you have difficulty seeing at night when you drive?” Do you realize I worry about your driving, especially when ________ happens?” This could set the stage for honest (albeit painful) discussions about future driving….

Often families will enlist the help of medical personnel, such as the family doctor who is not as emotionally vested in the situation, to bring up the topic of driving safety and the pending need to discontinue driving. That takes the onus off of the adult children, making medical personnel the “bad guy” which they are usually willing to do, and preserves the unpleasant feelings projected onto family members.

Probably the greatest trouble families run into is when they recognize a problem or a need for change, but have difficulty coping with Mom or Dad’s guilt, manipulation, anger, denial, sadness or other unpleasant response to sensitive issues, such as unsafe driving. Besides sticking their head in the sand and pretending there is no problem, I have also seen families jerk the keys away only to relent and give them back, even against the advice of medical personnel…. You can imagine the mixed signals that sends, ultimately making the next time much more difficult, for both the parent as well as the adult child. So, once the decision is made, it is probably best to stick with it.

Ideally, older adults would have an awareness of their slowed response, decreased vision and depth perception, and lack of peripheral vision and offer to give up the keys and stop driving. If that is your parent, you should thank our God! This is a very painful and sensitive subject and you have been spared the emotional upset.