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I can still drive
Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 4:55 PM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3669


As an Alzheimer’s patient, I find it very difficult to perform tasks that I was once very capable of performing. Sometimes I am better than other times at doing the same task. People around me have accepted this fact and have tried to be very forgiving when I run into issues doing a task or when just trying to remember something. I really think that people around me should challenge me more at times. 


For example, many of my doctors kept questioning me about whether or not I should still be driving. This of course was mentioned to my wife, who also started wondering. I finally had a driving test a few years later. It was recommended that I no longer drive, even though I passed the test. I was almost borderline, but there was concern that I may not recognize when I become worse and could then become a danger. First of all, I have to tell you that the test they performed was not fair. I wonder how many regular people would be able to pass this test. The test also relied on me to learn new things in order to take the test. That is not fair since I have been driving the same vehicle all this time and nothing has changed. This constant talk about my driving has totally killed all of my self-esteem about driving. Every time I was in the car on the road with my wife, she constantly pointed out any mistakes I made, and her reaction time was much quicker than mine. I do realize I am a bit slower in my response time, but that is why I give myself more space between the other cars. Sometimes I am very far back or I just don’t want to go around that slow car. There is nothing wrong with not feeling comfortable to go around that person. Let me do it at my speed. 


I see many people on the road that I feel are so much worse than me and I wonder why they are still on the road, if I am supposedly so bad. I decided that I was going to drive to visit my daughter in South Carolina. I live in Jamison, PA in Bucks County. I was very scared to take this trip but I was trying to prove something to myself. It could have meant the end of my driving if I made a serious mistake along the way. In one day, I drove about 700 miles, with the help of a GPS in my car. The more I drove, the more I started to feel comfortable behind the wheel. A few other people on the road made serious mistakes along the way and I easily avoided a possible accident. This trip was the best thing I could have done for myself. I now have almost all of my self-confidence back and my wife no longer makes constant comments about my driving, unless I have a real issue. I have now had two close calls that required quick thinking and maneuvering to avoid an accident. In both cases, it was the other driver at fault and I was able to avoid the issues without my wife’s comments. Again, it may have taken me an extra second or two to react, but I was fine. 


Because of this situation, I feel even stronger than ever that it is important to be challenged. I know it may be easier for you to do something for an Alzheimer’s patient because it’s much quicker for you to accomplish the task, but I really believe that if you take the time to coach us along the way, we may do better in the long run. Believe me, I know it’s got to be very aggravating at times, but I really appreciate it. It takes a lot of patience on the part of the helper. Everyone is different and you need to know at what point in time you should not push. It’s also hard to be patient and not raise your voice at the person you are trying to help, because it will only make it worse. I am not advocating that it is appropriate for all Alzheimer’s patients to continue to drive. That is a personal decision that needs to be made with input from your family and others. I am just saying that just because you have a diagnosis does not mean that you suddenly are no longer able to do anything by yourself. 


Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2011 7:03 AM
Joined: 11/29/2011
Posts: 182

Michael, I'm happy to read that you are still able to drive! I live in PA also and one of my doctors told me that the state required him to inform them that I was diagnosed with dementia. Shortly after he sent that letter I received a letter from the state informing me that I needed to send in my license


My choices were:

1) go to the DMV and turn it in for a state ID for free

2) don't turn it in myself and the state will do it for me. The new ID will cost me $20


I selected choice #1 with a tear in my eye..

Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 1:13 PM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3669

My doctors recommended that I no longer drive, but I prove them wrong because there test are not accurate and the real driving test is the only thing that is true, not video games. You had another option and that is to retake the test with a State Trooper station on your real driving skills. I am now working with the

International Association of Chiefs of Police to hopefully make it better for other people who have their licence taken away to early.   


Posted: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 9:46 AM
Joined: 11/29/2011
Posts: 182

Any more it has become impossible for me toget my wife on my side about the driving issue. She is convinced that I shouldn't be allowed to drive and refuses to drive me over to the DMV for a test. She says that the state has that letter for my doctor in their files and they won't allow me to test. She is fearful that I will make a mistake and kill somebody.


If I was to get a new liscense I would be sure to only drive with another adult. I realize there might be something to it!

Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 10:51 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3669

Hi Tom,


I would love to speak with you. 215-343-9395 I can also call you if you want. Just send me your phone number to my email adress

Posted: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 12:08 PM
Joined: 11/29/2011
Posts: 182

Hey Michael,


I just called your phone and left a message with my phone numbers.

Jim Broede
Posted: Friday, December 23, 2011 1:48 AM
Joined: 12/22/2011
Posts: 5462

Life is full of risks. We put ourselves and others at risk. Daily. In many, many ways. I'm willing to take calculated risks. I probably allowed my Jeanne to drive longer than should have. But I wanted her to push the limits. To get through life. Despite the risks. Despite the Alzheimer's. Turned out all right. She didn't hurt herself. Or others.  Maybe because we were lucky.  --Jim
Posted: Friday, December 23, 2011 8:10 AM
Joined: 12/15/2011
Posts: 48

What would make you decide to stop driving, Michael?  What kind of incident? You at least need to have that very clear in your mind.

     All it takes is one second to hit a child on a bike.  Being unable to drive is huge if you have no one to drive you, if it leaves you house-bound. 

     But if it´s about self-esteem or independence or reluctance to give up the pleasure of driving, well, the price can be very, very high if that one or two-second delay leads to an accident. Please listen to your passengers.  Even if she´s your wife!

Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2012 1:30 PM
Joined: 1/5/2012
Posts: 27

The driving issue is huge for those of us with alzheimers.  I want to be independent and where I live driving is the only way to get most places.  Sometimes I do get

"lost" when behind the wheel, but  I can reorient myself to remember where I was trying to go and then make it home successfully.  Does this make me an unsafe driver?  I have not had any accidents but know that the time will come when I will be unable to drive.  I had a fight on my hands when I told my mother she could no longer drive - she had several minor accidents-and she tried to pass the DMV written test and failed it - finally she realized she could no longer drive because of alzheimers.  Funny thing I did not realize I had memory problems until she was evaluated for placement in a nursing facility - and I was with her and she did better on the memory test then I did!  She only stayed in the nursing facility for a few weeks before she died.  I felt good being with her and holding her hand as she passed  though she did not know I was there.  So I see both sides of the story.

I hope when my time comes to stop driving I don't give anyone a hard time about it..

Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2012 2:29 PM
Joined: 12/6/2011
Posts: 3326

On CBS This Morning, there was a segment on giving up the keys: See the segment  and article here:;flexGridModule

Mimi S.
Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2012 4:04 PM
Joined: 11/29/2011
Posts: 7028

Hey Ttom and Michael,

I am thrilled that you two have found each other. How far apart do you live?

And Michael, any chance of your joining lots of other Early Stagers at the Forum in DC april 23-25. The Meeting especially for those of us in Early Stage begins at 2 PM on Monday. So be there then if you plan to come.

For all interested in more about the driving topic: The HBO :The Alzheimer's Project and the particular video, The Memory Tapes is still appropriate.

You can watch it on your computer.

You want the second segment. 

You can watch on your computer. Or ask for The Alzheimer Project tapes at your library. Then you can watch on TV.

keyboard kapers
Posted: Thursday, April 5, 2012 8:19 AM
Joined: 4/3/2012
Posts: 7

I spend most of my volunteer time working with ALZ or other dementia people. In addition I entertain in independent and assisted living facilities. I think the greatest blow to independence is giving up the driving no matter what the condition that prompts it.


I also find that it is a big adjustment when someone is diagnosed in the early stages of dementia or Alz since they know what lies ahead. Sometimes they have no outward symptoms and feel as if their thinking is normal- which, in many cases, it is.


My parents lived into their high nineties with nothing more than some short term memory losses. I was very fortunate.


One thing I try to remember is that there is no "one size fits all" in dementia. In one of my facilities there are ladies who like to play brain games, do puzzles, hold good conversations, have friends, take walks, garden, paint pictures, write stories, sing, make jokes, help with cooking.....even if they cannot always remember where their room is or their friend's name. We try to capitalize on what each one can do and likes to do and go from there. I learned a great deal about our country from a lady who had traveled extensively- all of it true- although she forgets when to eat, if she wants to eat, or what they are serving. She loves watching travel VCR tapes and recognizes place she has been.


I see a great need for more one-to-one volunteers to visit, talk with, and relate to persons in facilities.  I think they need to learn about the situations and to keep an open mind.  I see too many folks who have been put into good facilities and then just left there by the family. "We know they are safe, getting good care, good food, and activities so we just don't go very often........"

keyboard kapers
Posted: Thursday, April 5, 2012 8:32 AM
Joined: 4/3/2012
Posts: 7

I sympathize with the thought of giving up driving being very disturbing. I have not been diagnosed with anything but there are times when I know I am not as quick to react while driving- or in other situations- as I used to be.


And not all poor drivers are persons with dementia, which makes it more dangerous for those who do have such an issue. Drivers under stress, drivers in too much of a hurry, those with road rage issues, a number of teen drivers who lack the experience to be good drivers yet, drunk drivers, motorcyclists out to prove that they have rights to do crazy things.....there are lots of issues at stake when anyone takes a car on the road.


I wish the best for you in your continuing to drive but I think I would not push it too far. One of the ladies I know whose family thought she should give up her car went out driving with a driving school instructor and then an off-duty deputy- both found her driving to be much better than the average in such cases, I think the person can go on driving. On the other hand, there does come a time to stop. I was driving behind my 85 year old father one day. We were stopped for a red light when an emergency vehicle came up behind us with sirens wailing, lights flashing etc. and went around us. As the light had turned green Dad started just driving on- he had not heard or seen the fire truck. He used to depend on Mother to tell him if the light was green or red..etc. When he realized what had gone on, he decided on his own to quit driving and I gladly started taking them wherever they wanted to go.

Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 3:55 PM
Joined: 12/4/2011
Posts: 19631

Michael and Tom....Pleeeeeease be certain that with an AD diagnosis you are insuerd!!!!