The Other Talk and Taking Your Parent’s Car Keys

What can you do if you suspect your parent should no longer be driving? Inspect the car for dents. Meet with his/her physicians to review their health and medications. Suggest a test drive to observe and assess their ability. And, if your suspicions are confirmed, it’s your responsibility to convince your parent to surrender the car keys.

Noting that taking the keys is “probably the first step in the role reversal process,” Tim Prosch, the author of The Other Talk: A Guide to Talking with Your Adult Children about the Rest of Your Life (who will join us for a special client luncheon event on September 4th) shared some planning tips to avoid the stress of a battle over the keys in a recent interview with the Financial Planning Association.

He notes, “Get everyone involved beforehand (when I say everyone, I’m talking about the adult kids as well as the spouse). Sit down and say, ‘Okay folks, you know how much I love to drive my little sports car, but there’s going to come a time when I can’t or I shouldn’t, so let’s talk about how we’re going to manage that.’”

Tim also suggests setting a third party trigger point, like your doctor. He explains, “When I go for my annual physical, if he decides that my mental acuity or physical acuity is such that I shouldn’t be driving, then we both agreed in writing that I will stop. I literally have a document that I signed, my doctor signed, and my kids signed. I’ll be honest, when it comes to that point, I’m sure going to fight it. But all they have to do is pull out that document and say, ‘Remember dad, we agreed to this.’ And I’ll say, ‘You’re right.’”

Tim adds that a mistake many make is ending the conversation by taking the keys. Stressing the need to develop some solutions, he explains, “I live in downtown Chicago, so I will need to get much more involved in public transportation, which is easy to do in a city. But if you live in the suburbs or in the country like my parents did, that’s not going to work; you need a plan B. In the case of my parents, we had nurses’ aides at the house and they would do all the driving.”

Tim’s bottom line is positive, “What we’re saying is, your life isn’t over; it’s not that you can never leave the house. Part of losing the car keys is losing your independence. If we can get around that loss of independence, then for me, to stop driving just means I’m safer, the rest of the world is safer, and my life isn’t over.”

We look forward to hearing more advice from Tim on how families can discuss difficult topics like this when he joins us in September.

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