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Heather Coakley, PsyD, M.S.W.
Ask the Expert Psychologist

February 2nd, 2008
I think my 93 year old father is unsafe to drive, but he refuses to give it up. We get in arguments about this all the time. I'm afraid he might hurt someone, or himself. What do I do?

Dear Driven Scared,

This is a tough one. For both of you. It doesn’t sound like the arguing is working for you, but not arguing might feel like giving up and I’m sure that doesn’t feel like an option either. You know, as we age, there are so many losses. We lose our independence through the financial constraints of a fixed income, the declines in our health and the growing isolation that comes with our children having lives of their own and our spouses and friends dying. As a result, we grab on for dear life to those things we can still control- like our food intake, whether or not we’ll decide to participate in activities or social interaction and whether or not we’ll continue to drive. Sometimes it feels like it’s one of the last things we have, especially if people don’t really come around much anymore. It’s our only way to get out and about and remember we’re alive. Not always such a good, rational decision but understandable I think. You know, it’s actually the converse of when we were young and we first got our driver’s license. Remember that? That was freedom. Yes, we were still told when to come in and eat, do our homework and when we could go out with friends. But to get in the car and go….now, that felt really good, didn’t it? Can you imagine now having to give that up? I’d like you to read an article I wrote for AgingPro, called “How to Talk to Your Loved One about Retiring From the Road” that discusses some ways you can talk to your dad about this issue. It might be helpful to you as this is a very complex issue. It sounds like you really love your father and want the best for him and everyone around him. Good luck in dealing with this situation and remember: Either way, the conversation and subsequent outcome might not feel good but that doesn’t mean it’s not for the best.

All the best,
Dr. Coakley


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