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When You Are Concerned - A guide for families, friends and caregivers concerned about the safety of an older driver

(When You Are Concerned is also available as a PDF)

Chapter 5

COPING

"I was married for over 50 years when my spouse died. I eventually got over that loss. But I have not gotten over the loss of my driver's license."

DEALING WITH LOSS AND CHANGE

Leaving the wheel is often a watershed event for an aging driver. It represents the end of a unique form of individual freedom. A freedom the driver may have known and counted upon for most of his or her life.

Now, seemingly overnight, that freedom and all it conveys is gone forever. It is a loss which can be as deeply felt and as significant as any major life-event loss. It is no wonder that the issue of leaving the wheel can precipitate powerful reactions.

What are some of the reactions I might anticipate?

Families, friends and caregivers who intervened with an at-risk or unsafe aging driver reported the following range of responses from the driver:

What do I say if my driver is hostile or angry?

CAREGIVING & COPING

"My mother had a bad crash. It was a newsworthy event. She spent one year in rehab. The accident did not scare her. Like many, we had been holding our breath until this crash. We talked to her doctor. Got him to say no to driving as she was having coordination and confusion difficulties. It was time for her to leave the wheel. She got very depressed she could not drive again. She called me all the time. She wanted me to help her get her license back. To shop for a doctor who would let her drive again. But the doctor was right. She was no longer able to drive safely. Her calls were really upsetting me. I even started seeing myself in the same situation some day. Even though I work in the aging field and know all about dealing with this, it has been a very difficult situation to say the least."

The day an older loved one stops driving often marks the day you begin a transition to caregiver. If you were involved in precipitating your loved one's removal from the wheel, you may also be feeling guilt in addition to your new caregiving responsibilities. The combination can be physically and emotionally draining. You will need to take care of yourself. Here are some of the symptoms and warning signs that you may be needing help:

SIGNALS TO WATCH FOR

SIGNS OF CAREGIVER BURNOUT

BURNOUT PREVENTION

CAREGIVER ASSISTANCE

Caregiver assistance is no more than a telephone call away. Your area agency on aging can link you to confidential help. There are also many excellent guides about caregiving available from AARP, the Alzheimer's Association, your local library and the Internet, as well as helpful information about caregiving, support groups and so much more.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Support groups allow for what Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, called the "talking cure." Today, "talking it out" is understood as one of the pathways to coping and feeling better. Support groups are about people with similar situations and stresses coming together to talk, listen and help each other. It is an environment where Freud's "talking cure" takes place. Most leave feeling much better. Not getting a bill from a psychiatrist also helps.

Chapter 6