Let’s hope all of us are fortunate enough to have our parents and grandparents live to ripe old ages. We all benefit from their wisdom, love, and from their advice. Sometimes, however, old age does not come quietly. With old age, we are sometimes faced with difficult decisions related to finances, living situations, and the very common issue of whether it’s time to hang up the keys to the car.
It is understandable why someone would not want to give up what they consider their key to independence. Driving means getting places when you want and not having to rely on others. It also serves as a sign that perhaps some of your youth has gone. Factors which often affect the ability to drive could include diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and vision issues.
Many adult children caregivers of older parents ask if they have a legal responsibility to “take” the car keys from an older parent to prevent an accident from happening. From a legal perspective, adult children are probably not responsible for the actions of their older parents. There are, of course, always extenuating circumstances to consider, so legal consultation is wise. The real question is, do adult children have a moral responsibility to help their older parents not put themselves and others in danger when their driving skills are diminished?
Resources to help in resolving this dilemma include your parent’s doctor, attorney, clergy, or even the Department of Motor Vehicles in the state where your parent is licensed. It is important to know, however, that a significant conflict could occur if you choose to go “over your parent’s head “ for assistance.
What is important is protecting your parent and others without causing a real riff between you and him or her. However, also remember, there is a difference between legal responsibility and moral responsibility.
This is a major issue for so many people. It’s important that we consider all the factors before we make a decision.
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Jeffrey Bellomo, Esq.