My grandfather is slowing down quite a bit and has trouble getting around. He walks with a cane and, sometimes, a walker, and generally has trouble with his legs. My mother and I have talked to him repeatedly about giving up driving, but (unsurprisingly) he refuses. He says he’s perfectly fine to drive and to stop bothering him about it. He mostly drives locally – grocery store, doctor’s appointments, and church – but occasionally will drive the ninety minutes up and back to my mother’s house. This understandably makes me very nervous, but I’m at a loss as to how he will function without a car.
The obvious answer is to move him up into my mother’s house, which my mother is willing to do, but the issue there is he has a lot of friends where he lives currently. He’s very socially active, going to church, club events, playing pool, going out to eat, etc., and I think it’s extremely important at his age for him to keep busy and social and to have things to do and to look forward to. If he moved in with my mother, he would lose all of that and would probably just sit around the house and read all day.
He is not technologically advanced at all, so having him use something like Uber or TaskRabbit isn’t really an option. He could get groceries delivered to him, but he would have to work with my mother or me every time to put an order in online, which isn’t very practical. He also doesn’t hear very well, so having a conversation on the phone is extremely difficult (which, in turn, would make coordinating things like grocery buying online very hard). And while he lives in the suburbs, it’s pretty rural as far as suburbs go, so there isn’t any public transportation. And we can’t just take away his keys without figuring out how he’s going to get around to do the things he needs to do, especially medical appointments, which he has probably once a week.
I don’t know whether to encourage him to move in with my mother and lose all of his friends and social life, which keeps his mind active, or if there’s a way we can keep him in the house he’s in without his needing to drive. Or if we should just trust him that he really is still fine to drive. Any advice or thoughts would be much appreciated! — Worried About Grandpa Driving
The first — and possible main — problem here is that you and your mother believe your grandfather shouldn’t be driving and he disagrees. What do his doctors say? If they are onboard with convincing him to give up driving, you have a better case. But if they support his driving, at least locally, you (and your family) need to think about how to generally support his independence while keeping him — and others — safe. I agree that moving your grandfather in with your mother should be a last resort as it would drastically alter his lifestyle which would inevitably lead to a host of other problems (potential depression, bigger health issues, rapid decline, etc.). So, you and your family need to brainstorm ways your grandfather can maintain his current living situation — or something close to it — without risking his safety every time he leaves his home.
Since you mention that Uber is out of the question because your grandfather isn’t tech-savvy, I’ll assume that Uber is at least an option where he lives for people who can push a button on a phone. And, really, that’s all it takes to call a car — pushing a button. Your grandfather doesn’t need to be tech-savvy to do that. A phone or iPad can be procured for him if he doesn’t already have one, the app can be downloaded, his payment info uploaded, and someone — maybe you or your mother — can show him how it works. Or, he can call you, your mom, or someone locally — does his senior community have a manager’s office or front desk receptionist? — who can call a call for him.
My father-in-law, who passed away a few months ago at 95, lived at home until his final days. Believe me, I can appreciate the challenges and emotions involved in trying to respect an elderly loved one’s desire for independence and privacy while also trying to ensure his safety and well-being. It is not easy, and it often requires difficult and frank conversations. You may need to enlist the help of his doctors. You might ask him to take a driving test with the DMV. Your mother will have to tell him that he’s only welcome at her home if he allows someone else to drive him there (and, practically speaking, that may not even be an option…). It will feel like you’re betraying him in doing these things. But you have to remind yourself — and him — that his safety and well-being are your priorities
That your grandfather is already in a community designed for seniors will make things a little easier. What sort of services does the community provide for its residents that might ease the transportation burden on your grandfather? Are there shuttle buses? Someone who can call a cab or Uber, as mentioned earlier? As you grandfather continues aging, it’s not just driving that he will have problems with. Does the community where he lives offer assistance in terms of home health management and food preparation? Does your grandfather have the resources to hire part-time help, on a daily basis or even just weekly basis, for a few hours to assist with running errands, getting to and from medical appointments, etc.? If so, then you (and he!) are lucky and your main challenge will be convincing him that he needs the help now.
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