Ask Jennifer: Week ending 3/8

Posted at: 03/30/2010 2:51 PM
Updated at: 02/20/2015 10:18 AM

Dear Jennifer,

I have one simple question. How do I help my wife feel like it is not her fault that her father had to stop driving? She asked him to stop after he got in his third fender bender in one month. He has macular degeneration pretty bad in one eye and we think that may be the problem. He stopped driving, but whenever the subject c omes up, he tells her it is her fault he’s not driving. He won’t listen to reason. Any ideas?

Thank you,

Dear George,

Your father does not want to accept that he has a physical problem severe enough to have him stop driving. He likely does not want to think about his mortality and the changes that come with aging. In truth, all of these thoughts cause him anxiety and his defense is to get angry or deflect the problem so he doesn’t have to think about getting older. Let’s face it; giving up driving is a big deal. We are a mobile society. We like to get out and go when we feel like it and it is very difficult to be confined to home waiting for an offer of a ride or a paid transport to pick us up.

Your wife is protecting her father from injuring himself or someone else. If she took no action and someone was hurt, she would beat herself up for not taking action. Your wife must decide whether her father will listen to reason in a heart to heart discussion or at a visit with his doctor.
I do recommend the following:
- Help Dad with transportation arrangements.
- Plan to take turns providing rides that he can count on; a set time and day to get groceries or go to the barber.
- If he continues to make comments, be prepared. Your wife might say the same thing each time, such as:
“Thank you Dad for listening to me. Neither one of us would have forgiven ourselves if someone had gotten hurt. I know you’re a good driver, the problem is your eyesight.”  A comment like this reinforces why he stopped driving and helps him accept the reason. If this is all that is said, and it is said as good natured as possible, no one is being drawn into an argument. He may stop making jabs.

Good Luck. You and your wife have made the right decision.