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Taking Away The Tractor Keys

Many farmers have a hard time giving up their livelihood and will fight tooth-and-nail to keep driving the tractor. Unfortunately, a decline in physical condition or mental health can impair their ability to function on the tractor as well as the rest of the farm.

Having the conversation that it may be time for them to stop is not going to be easy, but it should be handled with respect and dignity.

Deborah Reed is a professor and agricultural health nurse, and has done research on this issue at the University of Kentucky. She says if you notice the farmer having problems with cognitive function, it’s important to have the discussion early on.

"Many farms are undergoing a generational transition right now, and actually that’s a good time to start it," says Reed. "So, if you kind of play out the scenario as it being in the future, say, now mom or dad, or whoever this might be, if things begin to slip with you mentally, how are we supposed to handle that?"

You could argue with the farmer that their safety is at stake. But Reed says farmers generally don’t worry about hurting themselves.

"So, if you tell your mom or dad, you know, well, you might just die on that tractor, they’ll probably tell you that that’s the way I prefer to go," she says. "But if you say, we’ve noticed that you can’t see as well, or you’re having trouble with the tractor and your grandchild may be around, that’ll put the brakes on the tractor. Because no one wants to be responsible for hurting a child, particularly one of your own family members."

When push comes to shove, you may have to physically take away the keys to the machinery.

Learn more about dealing with physical and mental issues in farming

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