Monday, May 21 , 2018, 8:13 pm | Fair 61º

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Rona Barrett: Proceed with Caution When Convincing Aging Parent to Stop Driving

“Dad, there’s a stop sign, there’s a stop sign!”

“What do you mean, ‘There’s a stop sign’?”

“Stop!” I was praying his hearing at 88 was good enough that he could hear me.

He slammed on the brakes. I said, “Dad, if I didn’t have a seatbelt on I would have gone through the window.”

“Aw, stop it. You’re just making a big deal out of nothing.”

Senior driving is one of the most emotionally tense scenarios seniors and their loved ones go through. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been asked, “So when do you take a senior’s car keys away from them?” My quick answer is, “You don’t.”

At least I didn’t. With my own dad, I decided it was up to me as his caregiver to help him understand that it was up to him to hand over his keys — not for me to take them away.

But it didn’t happen fast or easy; in fact, it took the patience of Job — on both our parts, and it nearly took my husband’s life.

A few days after my heart-stopping wild ride with my dad, my husband went with him and nearly had a heart attack because it was the same scenario that I had experienced. He came home and said, “Rona, we can’t let him continue to drive. It’s just too dangerous.”

I really wasn’t looking forward to the conversation I knew we needed to have. Who does? So I tried to approach my dad as I would want him to approach me — just two adults talking it out.

I began the conversation with the safety issues: his safety, his loved ones’ safety, and the safety of strangers’ loved ones should they be involved in an accident caused by his driving.

He didn’t like what he was hearing. He said it made him feel like a dependent child.

I said, “Dad, you’ve driven a car for 75 years. I know what driving means to you and this has to be tough. Driving has always meant freedom to you. But, consider the freedom from worry you’ll have. You can retire from driving. You’ve paid your dues.”

Then he so much as said, “It’s just another nail in my coffin.”

He was silent the rest of the day.

I thought, “Now, what will I do?”

The following morning he came to the kitchen table, sat down, reached into his pocket, brought out his car keys and dangled them in front of me, and said, “They’re yours. I’ll depend on you to drive me wherever I need to go.”

That my dad saw fit to hand over the keys and that I didn’t have to take them forcefully away made me profoundly grateful that we had our discussion sooner rather than later — and not in the back of an ambulance!

You can get more in-depth help on the Internet. I found this site particularly helpful: Click here.

Until next time … keep thinking the good thoughts.

— In honor of her late father, entertainment journalist, author, senior activist and Santa Barbara County resident Rona Barrett is the driving force behind the Golden Inn & Village, the area’s first affordable senior living and care facility, scheduled to begin construction in early 2015. Contact her at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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