It is something that no one wants to experience or be a part of, when it’s time to take the keys away from your mother or father. Many years ago, I and my sister and brother had to have the conversation with both our mom and dad about their driving. Both of them had had an incident where they didn’t know what they were doing while driving. My mom entered the off-ramp of a freeway thinking it was the on ramp. My dad lost consciousness for short time while driving and was saved by the early metal row guards along the road. These are not the only incidents that indicated that my parents should not be driving.
Both of them are were proud an individual people. So when it came to the topic of their driving they were initially defensive about any thought of their not driving. So it took several conversations with from all of us to each of them and both finally stop driving and relinquish the keys to their vehicles to my brother and sister. It was a team effort.
While involved in the conversations with my parents it never occurred to me that someday I would probably have the conversation with my children or wife. If you had never lived in a city where the public transportation is provided and you can get almost any locations, you would be lost without the use of your vehicle to get around. Well in my case I have never lived in a city where there was readily accessible public transportation. Most people live in areas where transportation is provided by their own private vehicles. When most Americans moved out of the cities and into the suburbs or they lived in rural communities, having a car or truck to get around was essential.
I realize that when their sons and daughter were asking my folks to give up driving the cars it was doing two things. First, it was asking them to admit that they were not as good as they used to be, so much so that they shouldn’t be driving. Most of us of been driving vehicle since we were 16 years old. So for someone to ask you to admit that you are incapable of driving is a really personal thing. Secondly, it was asking them to give up some of their freedom. Being able to drive to the store or to your church are just to look at the scenery around you is something near and dear to each of us. To accept these first two issues is really a monumental moment.
In my family’s case, both of my parents agreed to give up their keys. I noticed after this moment their health and outlook declined a little bit. They have gone from being a parent who guided their children through life, to having the roles reversed and their children guiding them. Pride, dignity and respect are things that all of us want. After living a life of independence, is a huge change to go to dependence upon others.
The situation is even worse, when the person you’re asking to give up the keys does not agree. For those people who are experiencing Alzheimer’s and believe that they’re doing everything as well as a did before, any effort to take their keys will result in some kind of resistance and even anger at the people asking them to do so. Both parties in this action will feel a lot of pain and heartache. Eventually, the keys will be given to someone else in the will be maybe a slow or fast acceptance of the condition.
I say this as I am turning 69 years old. Currently, I feel capable of doing things as I have been able to do for years. And even as I have had heart conditions and cancer, I feel that I am still very capable of taking care of myself. Currently when my wife and I go to any location, I do the driving. Sometimes, I am so tired that I asked my wife to drive. Even when doing that I feel uneasy. I know that there will be a day when either my wife or my children will ask me to stop driving. As logical as I am right now, I know that someday I will become more dangerous driving a car and I will have to give up the keys.
For those of you who are given the task of asking your loved one to give up the keys, my heart goes out to you. And you will probably struggle with the feelings you will experience as you do so. Stay on course and make sure that your loved one gives you the keys. Now that the roles are reversed mom or dad will start acting more like the child that you used to be. And you will probably remember that their strong guidance and care was the right thing to do. Now it falls upon you to understand the role reversal role and be ready for them to act like a child.
When it’s time to take the keys, try to find ways to get your parents to those activities that they love. But don’t give in and allow them to drive. And hopefully when it becomes your turn to lose your keys you think back to when you had to take them from your parents and you will be better prepared to accept the loss of the keys.
There is still my tractor, Pops