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Difficult Conversations: It’s time to stop driving

In my time as a Village Manager, I often found my role went beyond looking after the bricks and mortar of the community.  There were times, numerous in fact, when I’d have to address sensitive and challenging issues. One such time was the day I had to sit down a with a resident and suggest its time they stopped driving.

Let’s be honest, driving is independence. It’s that first step to being an adult and to freedom. It is completely understandable then why this is such a difficult conversation to have.

As Mangers we see every day the decline in the physical and cognitive abilities of our residents. Behind a wheel, this puts more than just the driver in danger.

Recognising the signs is crucial. As is recognising ‘when’ it is time to have the conversation.  

This is a daunting task. Yes, it is essential for the safety and wellbeing of the resident and the wider community. But it is still daunting, which is why it is crucial to involve family, or trusted friends of the resident.

Their support can help you have this conversation, with a unified front for prioritising the resident’s safety.

In reflecting on how I went about having these conversations, I’ve prepared a few tips to help you out for when the time comes.

  1. Choose the right time and place: Find a quiet, private, and comfortable setting to have the conversation. Ensure there are no distractions or time constraints.
  2. Use “I” statements: Express your concerns by saying, “I’ve noticed…” rather than “You are not fit to drive anymore.” This approach is less accusatory and more compassionate.
  3. Offer alternatives: Suggest alternative transportation options, such as public transit, community shuttle services, or arranging rides with friends and family. Emphasise that their safety is your top priority.
  4. Involve a medical professional: Encourage the resident to consult their doctor for an objective assessment of their driving abilities. A medical opinion can hold significant weight in the decision-making process.
  5. Respect their feelings: Understand that giving up driving can be an emotional experience. Be empathetic, patient, and willing to discuss their concerns and fears.
  6. Plan for the transition: If the decision is made to stop driving, help the resident plan for life without a car. Ensure they have access to transportation alternatives and support networks, and see what services they might be entitled to.
  7. Follow up: The conversation doesn’t stop the moment you walk out the door. Rather, you should make a point of checking in on the resident. Their wellbeing extends well beyond driving a car.

Of all the difficult conversations I’ve had over the years, this has been one that required a great deal of sensitivity and empathy. Only through having a conversation from a place of care and support, can you find a way for the resident to accept that today is the day they hand over the keys.

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