Hey Elderly Aunt, help me convince my husband to stop driving (half) blind

Dear Elderly Aunt, My husband’s eyesight is getting worse. I’m no longer comfortable being a passenger in the car with him and have told him so. I do the driving when we both go places. But he still gets behind the wheel to drive himself into town. This is making me more nervous, but his license doesn’t expire for another 18 months, and he keeps saying he’ll be OK until then. I don’t want to just hide the keys, so how would you suggest I firmly but delicately address this issue with him?

Bette Davis certainly nailed it when she said, “Old age ain’t for sissies.” Especially in America, where our ageist, look-ist culture encourages us oldsters to view wrinkles and sags as personal embarrassments. 

For what it’s worth, dear reader, the Elderly Aunt isn’t having this. Instead, she views her own aging process as an Adventure into Graceful Diminishment rather than a Humiliating Failing. It’s yet another chance for her to boldly go where she has never gone before. Bring it on!

Of course, right now such bravado is easy for the Elderly Aunt to pull off. So far, all she’s had to deal with are cosmetic changes, a few aches and pains, and an increasing inability to remember people’s names. 

What your husband is facing, dear reader—failing eye sight and subsequent loss of independence—is another ball game entirely. Rage, rage against the dying of the light, indeed. Your husband is understandably pissed off (and probably frightened) by the idea that his eyesight is going and he needs to stop driving. It follows that no matter how many specific examples you, his wife, cite of his failing driving skills, no matter how simply and directly you express your very real concern for both his safety and the safety of others, he can tell himself that it’s just your opinion—an opinion with which he begs to differ, thank you very much!

Impasse. Now what? Two options come to mind — one involving family and friends, the other involving bureaucracy.

First, family and friends.

The Elderly Aunt suggests you call in the cavalry and stage a Zoom-vention. Have a hefty number of your family and friends tell your husband via Zoom —calmly, firmly, one after the other—that he has simply got to stop driving and why.  

Zoom-vention instructions (Oh goody! Bullet points!):

  • In the interest of marital openness, tell your husband that you’re organizing one. Be prepared for any and all reactions—from the Big Snit through giving into your request that he immediately stop driving.
  • In the unlikely event that your husband gives in immediately, be joyful and hug him lustily, but also be prepared for him to turn into a Giant Poophead (what the Elderly Aunt’s daughter calls her during the Elderly Aunt’s rare bad moods).
  • In the more likely event of the Big Snit, stay calm, don’t react emotionally, and begin contacting your potential Zoom-ventioners immediately.
  • Explain to each one why you need their help in staging a Zoom-vention and ask them to plan in advance what they will say. They should be specific in their concerns.
  • A note of caution, dear reader. As tempted as you may be to vent your frustrations about your husband’s stubbornness to family and friends, don’t do it! It would make your Zoom-ventioners feel they are being asked to take sides in a marital argument.
  • Set a time and date for the Zoom-vention. Inform you husband when it will occur. If he balks, stay calm. Let him know gently and firmly that you expect him to do your family and friends the courtesy of at least listening to what they have to say.
  • Cross your fingers, and just do it! 

Option #2, the one involving the DMV. 

The Elderly Aunt’s diligent research assistant discovered that there is a bureaucratic mechanism designed to help the rest of us deal with impaired drivers. Using this option would allow you to pass the buck to an impersonal bureaucracy. Which might or might not work better. And might or might not be better for your marital relationship in the long run. 

Click here to see what you think. 

Sadly, and after much consideration, should neither of her suggestions work, the Elderly Aunt sees no alternative other than to hide the car keys and batten down the domestic hatches. Tough love is required of us not just while raising children, but while dealing with aging dear ones as well.

As a fellow oldster, the Elderly Aunt is fully aware—theoretically, at least—that at some point she may have to get real about her own problematic driving. Hopefully, she’ll be able to accept her new status as a road menace with good grace, but she wouldn’t bet her very small farm on it. What she’s banking on is that her family and friends will be willing to make the effort to shower her with tough love. Or else call in the DMV.

For all our sakes.

The Elderly Aunt offers her thoughtful responses to your questions about this wild ride we call life on every other Monday.  And as a general disclaimer—to quote the elves from The Lord of the Rings — “… advice is a dangerous gift, even given from the wise to the wise.”

Got a question for the Elderly Aunt? Ask her on Facebook or email your question to [email protected] with the subject line “Elderly Aunt question.” (Just please don’t ask detailed financial questions). 

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