Monday, July 18, 2011

Keyless Ignition and Keeping Your Aging Parents Safe

Many of the new cars today have a keyless system--you keep your key in your pocket or purse and just push the button to turn on/off your car. This seems like a wonderful convenience (especially when you've just gotten a manicure). But, like all conveniences, there are some things to be aware of. If your elderly mom or dad has one of these systems in their car, make sure they understand how to use it.

It used to be, when you turned your car off, you took your key out of the ignition. You didn't have to worry about whether you actually turned the car off. With the keyless type, if you get distracted or forget, it is easy to leave the car running and go in the house. The cars have a warning system--some type of beeps--to let you know your car is still on. But, many of your aging parents have hearing issues and may not be able to hear the beeps. The first thing to do is make sure you read the owner's manual to know how their particular car's warning system works. The second thing to do is to establish some sort of back-up warning such as a note on the dashboard, on the entry door into the house, or wherever makes sense. If a car is left running in the garage, there is a potential carbon monoxide situation which can be deadly.

The next issue is what happens when the battery in the key dies. My elderly client had this happen and she got stuck in a parking lot unable to get into her car. Fortunately for her, she had roadside assistance and they were able to put a new battery into the key. Again, the important first thing to do is to read the owner's manual to the car and find out what the back-up system is, what they tell you to do. Establish a plan beforehand.

The final situation I've experienced with my clients was with a husband and wife. They went out to do some errands together and then he was dropping her off at a friend's while he continued on with the errands. Sounded so simple.....What happened was that the key was in her pocketbook. After he dropped her off he went to Home Depot. When he came out, guess what? He didn't have the key to start the car. Luckily for cell phones, he was able to call her and her friend drove her to give her husband the key. I'm not sure what is the answer to preventing this from happening other than plan ahead.

Getting inconvenienced by not having the key is annoying, leaving a car running in the garage is dangerous. Make sure that you and your parents have read the owner's manual to the car, are aware of the potential problems, and have a back-up plan in place.

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