dscn38954My father wasn’t living with me when I received the call to come pick him up because he had just totalled his car on the freeway by merging into a semi.  Luckily no one was hurt …and he TOLD me that the semi had merged into him.  It wasn’t until later did I learn the contents of the police report.  (He still thinks that truck was at fault.)

He went on to buy another car and managed not to crash it.  He gave that one to my sister when he moved to Idaho to live with me and I gave a sigh of relief.  With his dementia and his lower extremity neuropathy, he should not be driving.  But…..lo and behold……when I was work one day, he ORDERED a truck and had it delivered ! It was a used truck and an eager salesman brought it out to the house for a test drive.  My father purchased it there and then, for WAY too much money.  As you might guess, it was just after that that I filed for guardianship.  But receiving guardianship does NOT wash away all problems.  Saying “No” to things just brings out a lot of turmoil so creative thinking is required at these times.

There are many reasons that our elders may need to curtail their driving; dementia is just one.  Other reasons are slowed reaction times, decreased vision and hearing, diabetes, certain medications that have been prescribed, transient ischemic attacks (mini-strokes) and quite a few others.

When a person can no longer drive, they feel a huge loss of independence.  But sometimes that loss is necessary in order to protect the loved one and other possible innocent victims.  If you feel that your parent or loved one should no longer be driving, here are a few things that you might try if simple reasoning with them has not worked.

Speak with their physician and relate your concerns.  Doctors are not uncomfortable taking “the bad guy/gal ” role and elders will often give more credence to what their physician says than to what a care giver says.

Consult your local “Area on Aging”.  They often have access to an occupational therapist who will obtain a prescription for a driver’s evaluation.  If an elder does not pass, these results will be forwarded to the Department of Motor Vehicles who will then void their driver’s license.

If your parent or loved one has dementia, consult their Alzheimer’s specialist who will counsel them or order a driving evaluation.

If these things fail, desperate action may be required.  Distraction is helpful- “could you just help me plant these tulip bulbs first?”; keys can be hidden (although that doesn’t work for long); certain parts of engines can be dismantled; cars can be taken “to the shop” for inspection and “the problem may be bigger than we thought”.

These things don’t ALWAYS work, but helps to bide time and as an elder gets used to “not driving”, they are a little easier to accept the role as a non-driver as time goes on.


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