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Mom doesn't understand why she shouldn't drive
Posted: Saturday, November 2, 2019 7:36 PM
Joined: 11/2/2019
Posts: 31

Hi everyone! This is my first post here, I've been lurking for about a week and this site has already been very helpful, just hearing about other people going through similar experiences.

A little background - my mom was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment last year, and has progressed to dementia. She was reassessed at her neurologist's office and based off her MoCA score (12) as well as other factors the NP told her not to drive anymore. I knew this was coming and would be necessary, but I was naive in hoping that hearing a doctor say it would help her accept the fact.

As with many dementia patients, my mom thinks she's just fine and sees no reason to stop driving. After a heated disagreement, I got her to agree to give me her car keys for a few days while we thought about how best to move forward. She is constantly telling me she is fine to drive and won't stop.

I have no idea what to do from here. I probably went about this all wrong, and would love any insight into how you handled this situation with your LO. I empathize with her of course. She only goes on short drives to familiar places, hasn't been in any accidents, and hasn't gotten lost. It must be so confusing and frustrating to have someone tell you this is necessary when you don't connect with that fact at all.

Posted: Saturday, November 2, 2019 7:49 PM
Joined: 5/16/2017
Posts: 593

Remove the car from her vicinity so she is not constantly reminded of her loss. Do NOT discuss this her, there is no need.  She is not going to agree that she is not competent to drive.  When she is otherwise occupied, just move it.

 Be assured that you did the right thing before she finally got herself lost or into an accident. At some point, have her sign off of the title (again, no discussion)+ sell it or otherwise transfer ownership within the family.

Rose Gold
Posted: Saturday, November 2, 2019 10:27 PM
Joined: 8/11/2018
Posts: 21

The minute a doctor or other health professional tells her she must not drive, her exposure to ruinous financial consequences begins.  Her insurance can refuse to pay claims on the basis that she was not fit to drive.  If she's in any accident, even if it is 100% the other party's fault, she will be blamed for it because she had been told she should not be driving.  This is real.  I have heard it from lawyers and also a geriatrics doctor.

I don't know if she's able to listen to an argument like that.  You can try, anyway.

I agree that simply getting the car away from her residence might be necessary.  Meanwhile, keep enlisting docs, nurses, etc. to support that she can't drive.

My husband still thinks he's okay to drive but we sold his car a few years ago.  Then he lost his wallet, for the umpteenth time, and I told him I was going to cancel (not replace) his credit cards and that I wouldn't take him to the DMV for a replacement driver's license.  Eventually he agreed to surrender his license and get a state ID card instead, and I jumped right on that.

He still occasionally offers to drive to the store to run an errand and I remind him he doesn't have a license.  He misses the independence, of course.  He's having a lot of depression over the things he has lost, opportunities and abilities chief among them.  We tried switching his antidepressant and he had a very bad reaction, so now I'm trying to get a lot of good activities that he'll enjoy, to make life more worthwhile.  He's at "early stage" Alzheimers, but we took away driving while he was still in Mild Cognitive Impairment.

Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Sunday, November 3, 2019 5:44 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3181

I had a doctor tell me not to drive. That was 10 years ago. I have had others tell me its okay to drive. I drive great compared to so many others who do not have dementia. Do what is right based on her driving with you and others. Not just because she has dementia. You are getting bad info and check for yourself. 

Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Sunday, November 3, 2019 5:52 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3181

There are many others out there.

Posted: Sunday, November 3, 2019 6:07 AM
Joined: 6/24/2012
Posts: 543

Mild cognitive impairment is not necessarily a reason to stop driving. Most doctors will never say that a patient should not drive anymore.  They don't want to go there.  In my mom's case she was able to drive up until we moved her near us. She had replaced two garage doors but had not had any accidents.  I drove with her the last day and she went through a stop sign, but these are things that anyone could do on a given day.   My brother in the insurance field spelled out to me that mom could be sued for all of her savings if she had a bad accident.  And finally I admitted to myself that I would not be able to sit across from a victim (if it happened)  and explain that I did not have the guts to take the car away from her.  

 We took the car away because she would certainly get lost in a new area and where we live the drivers are unforgiving.  It was crushing to her.  But we waited until she was in an independent/assisted living facility that had car services available.  She never used the services.  I became her ride everywhere.  She never said it, but she was afraid of getting lost when out on an outing with the service.  Maybe you could find elder services that can give her rides locally? Or hire someone who could do this on a regular basis so she knows she can go out when she wants to or needs to.  

As we were moving her from her house, the neighbors shared with my brother that mom had been getting lost.  I knew it because she had stopped going to church.  She could not remember how to get there.  But she could get to Walmart.  She would walk around inside Walmart and have a 'day out'.  Ever since when I go to Walmart I look around and sure enough... there is an older person like mom walking around eyeing the bags of candy, just like mom.   

Posted: Monday, November 4, 2019 12:08 PM
Joined: 4/16/2019
Posts: 23

I just went through the exact same thing last week. Took mom back to the memory specialist and even though her test score was stable, she did poorly on the traces part (where they join the dots from A - 1 B - 2 etc.) She could verbally explain the pattern but not do it on the test. She has mild dementia. But the doctor explained that she was legally obligated to take her license and if my mom drove she would not be insured etc. This devastated my mom and broke my heart to be honest. Up until her 80th birthday which was 3 years ago she would drive 6 hours to visit me which meant driving through Toronto. So this is a very hard thing for her. But there is no choice for us. I'm worried about her ability to react quickly. She has shown no sign of a loss of direction but I do think she could easily get flustered so I know it's the right decision but very difficult! She didn't mention it after that and neither did I. Her short term memory isn't good so she may forget. We are hiding her keys for now.
Posted: Monday, November 4, 2019 5:31 PM
Joined: 1/28/2013
Posts: 2647

They never understand why they can't drive.  The only thing you can rwally do is to inform the doctor of any non-compliance and have him inform the DMV to suspend her license.  Then you are on solid legal gtound to temove the car.  A score of 12 on the MOCA is  very significant cognitive impairment.  There is a phenomenon known as anosognosia which makes a person unaware of their limitations.  There is no way to do this that will make her happy.  I know from experience.  Just do what needs to be done to keep her and others safe.  Don't let the doctor off the hook.

Let me reiterate.  This is not a matter of mild cognitive impairment and the risk of getting lost.  This is a matter of impaired judgement, possibly mistaking the gas pedal for the brake, and running red lights.  Progression is unpredictable, and what might be okay to drive today will not be safe six months from now

Posted: Monday, November 4, 2019 9:16 PM
Joined: 11/2/2019
Posts: 5

Driving has been one of the hardest things for my grandmother to give up. It is a huge loss of independence. She can't stealthily sneak presents to her siblings houses or even run to the store for a jar of peanut butter without asking somebody to clear their schedule.

It took her a few weeks to adjust, but she was more willing to give up driving when we told her that she could get in more trouble if there was an accident after the doctor said to stop driving. When she told the doctor that her mind was clear enough to drive, the doctor said that her response time is also slower. She might not be able to stop fast enough if there was an emergency.

The family was lucky enough for my car to break down a month or so after my grandmother was told to stop driving. This was the perfect excuse for me to borrow the car while she came to terms with what was happening.

MN Chickadee
Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2019 9:01 AM
Joined: 9/7/2014
Posts: 1040

Unlike so many other things, this is not one I would push the limits on. The risk is too great. Even if you ride with her today and she is fine, there is no reason to assume tomorrow will be ok. A score of 12 means her mind is pretty compromised. If that and the "other factors" you refer to caused her doctor to recommend she not drive, I would follow that. If she hurts someone on the road it could destroy her financially and would also be a pretty big heart break for the whole family. Even getting lost would be very difficult. The last time my mom drove, she got lost and parked the car a mile away and ended up walking home eventually. And she was scoring way higher than 12 on the tests. It hadn't happened before, we didn't see it coming. Her brain just misfired that day. She had lived in her home for 30 years. We had to go looking for the car because she didn't know where it was. You can imagine how worrisome that was for everyone - her wandering home late and not knowing what happened to her car, and that turned out as well as it possibly could. 

Many people have to get the car out of sight to get it out of mind. It's broken, was towed to the shop, and waiting on a part that must be coming on a slow boat from somewhere. Give this simple explanation say in the mean time you would be happy to take her anywhere she wants to go, and redirect to something nice when she brings it up. Looking at the sunset or the birdfeeder, a sweet treat, talking about something fun you are doing later. Rinse and repeat. There's no need to re-hash the reasons she can't drive or remind her what the doctor said. Eventually she will quit asking. 

Rocketman 1811
Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2019 4:58 PM
Joined: 5/19/2019
Posts: 42

I'm going through a similar discussion with my wife now (and have been for a couple of years). 

Don't be the bad guy here.  You'll never be able to negotiate your way out of it.  Let the Dr take point.  "I'm sorry Mom, I understand you concerns, but the Dr says...  When the Dr says its OK then we can discuss it again".

You want her to stop driving the day BEFORE it is obvious she shouldn't be.

Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2019 6:40 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3181

While this did not transfer all okay this was a very well known doctor agreeing a email concern with top people in government and AA. The bottom line is the doctor said he saw people with a MMSE of 30 and could no longer drive and many with a 10 an they were very capable of driving. The email starts from the bottom and works it way up. I am unable to share the PDF but you should get the point. It all comes down to hoe the person can drive and not what you think will happen or when it may happen. People are still human and stop taking there rights away to make your own selves feel better. 


From: Michael Ellenbogen
Sent: Monday, June 27, 2016 4:25 PM
To: 'Tim Hennessey' 'Steve Samuelson   'Osborne, Teresa' 
Cc: 'Bob Marino' ; 'Katie Macklin'  'Claire Day' ; 'Beth Kallmyer' 'Maria Carrillo
Subject: FW: FW: Tool kit needs improvement


I just received a answer back from a very well known Dr in PA. He not only does clinical trials but he is also an expert in Alzheimer’s arena. He is probably one of the best in PA, but I cannot say that for sure because I don’t know all of them in Pitts.  As I said I don’t make this stuff up.


Sent: Monday, June 27, 2016 3:58 PM
To: Michael Ellenbogen
Subject: Re: FW: Tool kit needs improvement


Hey, I just got back from DC (trial conference).  I wouldn't worry about this for one moment.  This is total bullsh--.  I just read a bunch of meaningless words.  The only thing that I care about is that there was so much effort to write such drivel, and not a single amyloid molecule was altered!  We could spend our time in vastly better ways than writing reports that are wrong, rigid, and designed to be ignored.  


My issues with this:


1.  Driving.  Physicians report based on their clinical judgment of risk. The driving data is limited.  But some people have problems despite having MCI (when you put it together with arthritis, eyesight, loss of reaction time) and others maintain excellent driving late into the disease.  So there's not a one size fits all approach. 


The statute reads: "1518.  Reports on mental or physical disabilities or disorders.

(a)  Definition of disorders and disabilities.--The Medical Advisory Board shall define disorders characterized by lapses of consciousness or other mental or physical disabilities affecting the ability of a person to drive safely for the purpose of the reports required by this section.

(b)  Reports by health care personnel.--All physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, physician assistants, certified registered nurse practitioners and other persons authorized to diagnose or treat disorders and disabilities defined by the Medical Advisory Board shall report to the department, in writing, the full name, date of birth and address of every person over 15 years of age diagnosed as having any specified disorder or disability within ten days."  

So "mental or physical disabilities affecting the ability of a person to drive safely" is left as a clinical judgment.  Under this wording, one could say that knee arthritis is a reportable condition within 10 days.  I TOTALLY disagree with this: "Pennsylvania requires report of diagnosis of dementia to the Department of Transportation within 10 days."  This is not in accordance with the stated law. 


2.  Weirdly they got the meds totally wrong.  Some Aricept responders do totally well.  And Aricept is appropriate in mild to late AD for a reason: it helps through the disease, as do the other ACHE-I's.  While the report gets the fact that these meds don't help in MCI, they do through AD progression.  One would not stop these meds after 6 months. 


With regard to Memantine.  Take a look at Lon Schneider's review of three placebo-controlled trials, over 1000 people with moderate disease: "meager evidence for its efficacy in moderate AD."  These trials included MMSE scores 10-22.  I live in the AD world and I was surprised how hard Memantine failed.  


Inline image 1

But the report recommends Memantine with MMSE 10-20.  Pretty much the exact population where we know it is likely not effective. 


The weird part is that the presentation states "These drugs may slow the rate of decline in cognition."  Actually, if they did that, or if we thought they MIGHT do it, then we'd start them very early.  This actually makes a disease modifying claim!  Something that's not been demonstrated.


I could also address their overly optimistic behavioral interventions, but I have to save something for later. 




On Sat, Jun 25, 2016 at 2:02 PM, Michael Ellenbogen  wrote:

Hi Dr


Not sure if you want to do this. Please look at this booklet and see if you agree with my comments all the way down below. They plan on handing this out to medical folks. They are already confused. I only find a small amount of docs that really understand all this when I speak to them. I believe this is to important to just let this go. Thanks so much.




From: Bob Marino  
Sent: Saturday, June 25, 2016 12:56 PM
To: 'Michael Ellenbogen'; 'Steve Samuelson'; 'Tim Hennessey'; 'Osborne, Teresa'
Cc: 'Katie Macklin'; 'Claire Day'
Subject: RE: Tool kit needs improvement


Hi Michael,


This booklet is only an example of one informational ADRD guide our state (& likely others) have used with select physician groups. In this case, Pa.’s network of PACE providers. I fully appreciative your passion, but take exception to your subjective and selective interpretation of portions of the information within. Please also review the source citations and credentials of the authors before offering additional ‘experts’. You know first-hand that this field has a large number of highly acclaimed researchers and practitioners, not all of whom are in 100% agreement on issues from causation to best practices of care. Yet, great effort is made to find enough common ground to attempt to serve the larger provider and care community with publications such as this.


There’s no doubt that future versions will be updated---and peer reviewed---as necessary to reflect current research that could revise some of the medication protocols or testing tools for both home and primary care office settings. The  Pa. Dept. of Aging, NIA Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center( www.nia/ ), Alzheimer’s Association, and others are working on all of these goals as I write.


Please also remember that these same orgs. are constantly communicating with multiple thousands of ADRD afflicted and their caregivers in a variety of settings, for the exact purpose you mentioned in closing---to ensure that the learning goes both ways.




From: Michael Ellenbogen 
Sent: Saturday, June 25, 2016 11:28 AM
To: 'Steve Samuelson'  'Tim Hennessey' 'Osborne, Teresa' 
Cc: 'Bob Marino'; 'Katie Macklin' 
Subject: Tool kit needs improvement


Hi Folks,


I decided to break some of this out so you can understand what the issues are related to this booklet. I am more than happy to put you in touch with the experts if you don’t believe me. We really need to create better tool kits. What is most import and needed is a test that can be done in your home to create a baseline. One that one can take over and over which compares to your previous results. There are test out there that do that. When they did mint cognitive test in hospitals as people were admitted they found so many who had so issue that the people were not even aware of. That is where we should focuses on some of our testing. In fact that was done at PENN.



From page 2        The Mini-Cog Assessment


This test is not always helpful. It is only good to create a baseline and to see if you may decline. There are many living with Alzheimer’s that sore 28 -29 and have many serious issues. There are some who can no longer drive but they can still pass this test. In my opinion this is not a good way to make an assessment. I have scored as low as 24 but most of the time I am 28-29 as many of my AD friends.



From Page 4   Pennsylvania requires report of diagnosis of dementia to the Department of Transportation within 10 days.

This is one of the reasons doctors refuse to label patients with a diagnoses. It adds to paper work and possible loss of right to the person living with dementia. I have asked many doctors. Two studies have now shown that there are no test that can determine how well a person can drive based on cognitive testing. These reports came out in the last 3 months. Even the ANA no longer says to stop driving just because of a diagnose. One needs to be monitored in their actual driving abilities.


From page 4   There are no convincing benefits of cognitive enhancing medications at this stage.

This is so false. I and many of my friend scored hi on the MMSE test yet we had some serious disabilities in our life. Cholinesterase inhibitors help most of us out to do things we were no longer capable of doing.



From page 5   Discontinue cognitive enhancing agents unless they have demonstrated a behavioral/psychiatric benefit.

I am not sure about this one but I have heard from many in nursing homes who were so much better by being on the drugs.


From page 6  They rarely improve cognition; their impact on quality of life or function is often modest or undetectable.

This line is so false. I am many of my friends would not be able to function any more if it was not for these drugs. It only works in 50% of the folks that try them. You should talk to my wife who is a trained RN and so the big impact it had on me. I was no longer capable of following a conversation until I started taking them.


From page 6   No cholinesterase inhibitor is more effective than any other.4

Completely false. While some work for others they don’t all work. One needs to test them all. Many work better when taking two kinds.


From Page 6   Figure 3. If a response occurs, it will usually occur within 3 months of starting treatment. Any modest improvement of MMSE score from baseline in patients taking donepezil is likely to disappear within 6 months.3

The last part of the sentence is so wrong. If you benefited from this drug in the beginning you will most likely have benefit till the end. Way past the 18 months most doctors and pharma tell you. They are not allowed to say and thing differently then what the actually studies times lasted. There is scientific evidence out there that shows that I am right performed by world renowned doctors.


There are a few facilities now that did experiments and they have totally been able to stop the use of antipsychotic drugs. They did this by modifying their schedules around the patient and started to find things to engage the folks. Not to mention some were in pain and the used pain medication which helped.  I believe under the CMS program now they have been able to reduce those drugs by 27 %. That proves if we change our ways and thinking people can have better lives.


For some reason I look at all this very differently them most and because of that I see issues that most don’t understand. When I have pointed these out to the experts they all agreed with my findings. I guess you must have AD to do this job. I have also spoken to hundreds of people living with dementia and always asking questions. I also speak to many caregivers who come to me for advice. The learning goes both ways.


Have a great weekend.



Rescue mom
Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2019 1:06 PM
Joined: 10/12/2018
Posts: 1496

There is another thread on this very subject on this page titled “how do you handle the guilt.”

Find that thread and read it, lots of good advice there and here.

But, her brain is not working right. She will probably never understand why she can’t. But even though she may seem OK driving a short known route—say to the store—something unexpected will happen, she won’t be able to react fast, and then tragedy. 

I live in a retirement area. Our local news is full of stories of elders who caused damage and death, driving with cognitive problems. Often they are sued, because if they continue to drive after doctor orders and Dx, they are especially negligent, as are caregivers if they allowed it. Lawyers are always combing accident reports looking for this. People get sued for everything they have.

Plus all the alerts for seniors who got lost. So many times, they and family are crying, “he seemed like he could” “it was just around the corner,” “he wanted to go right now.” Etc etc.

Hide the keys and move or disable the car. Out of sight becomes out of mind pretty fast.

Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2019 2:15 PM
Joined: 1/28/2013
Posts: 2647

Michael,  physicians and family do not take away driving privileges to make ourselves feel better.  We take them away out of concern for the innocent people who may be harmed by poor judgement and reaction time displayed by a particular PWD.  First of all, the MMSE is not the MOCA.  A MOCA score of 12 equals moderste to severe impairment p,us a rapid transition from MCI over the course of a year.

Second, fears over what might happen are behind our alcohol and drug impaired driving laws.  There may be a portion of the population that is not impaired at the legal blood alcohol levels, and many legally impaired drivers get to their destination without an accident.  Does that mean we should stop enforcing the DUI laws or refrain from taking the keys away from an obviously drunk friend?  I think not.

It is a rare case when a person is told to refrain from driving when friends and family all believe the person is a superb driver.  You may be one of these rarities, but it has been pointed out that your form of dementia and progression are atypical.  If the newly diagnosed PWD can retake and pass their drivers test, then so be it.  If not, please stop making concerned family caregivers second guess themselves and the professionals.  It is already difficult enough to have to face the transportation needs of those who can no longer drive.  We hardly do it to make ourselves feel good.

Edit:  Neither Bob Marino nor the doctor agreed with you on the subject of driving, which is a privilege rather than a right.  Bob Marino took exception to your selective interpretation of some issues.

Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Friday, November 8, 2019 7:24 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3181

You are correct about Bob. That is why I had reached out to this doctor. As far as the driving goes he was in agreement with me and it may be hard to understand because of the way it was copied. I would be willing to share the email to someone who would be willing to write about it without sharing the rest of it. Some one who is not biased and open.


As far as taking someone license away I am all for it if they truly have issues in driving. I am the first to take it away. Sadly, that is not what happens most times. 

Posted: Friday, November 8, 2019 8:27 PM
Joined: 8/5/2018
Posts: 22

I thankfully had a key fob to her car that didn't work. So I swapped it out with her real key when she wasn't looking. So she physically SEES her key, but it won't unlock or start her car.
Eric L
Posted: Friday, November 8, 2019 9:44 PM
Joined: 12/5/2014
Posts: 1288

There was a really interesting Nova that aired recently about self-driving cars. Not to get into the weeds too much with it, the conclusion was that self-driving cars are a long way off because operating a car safely is a very complicated process. One of the experts on the show more or less said that on a day to day basis, driving is probably the most complicated tasks that people participate in.

I imagine there is probably an actual study or two on this, but I would imagine that by the time most people are diagnosed that they are at a point where they shouldn't be driving. Of course, there are people that are diagnosed early on in the process that probably still have the ability to drive, but I they aren't the norm.

The other problem of course is that dementia does not follow a linear progression. There is really no accurate way to determine when a person is actually going to lose the ability to drive safely. There is no definite way to say "if a person is at stage 3 or scores (x) on whatever test" that they are or aren't able to drive. Even a driving test probably isn't accurate unless they are done at on at least a semi-annual basis.
Posted: Saturday, November 9, 2019 6:30 PM
Joined: 1/28/2013
Posts: 2647

If I'm not mistaken, Michael, the doctor agreed with you that there was no one size fits all policy on dementia and driving, but he said that some people had driving issues with a very small cognitive impairment, while others could still drive with more severe deficits.  My own mother was still getting scores of 29 on the MMSE, but I had noticed problems with her driving for several years prior, including the time she drove over a concrete median at full speed with me in the passenger seat because she simply couldn't see it.  Not to mention her level of opioid pain medication made her legally intoxicated.

I think most families have noticed driving issues in their LO before the doctor makes a diagnosis.  No one takes away a parent's car for the fun of it, and second guessing them is not helpful, especially on this board where we all feel guilt regardless of what we do.  For legal reasons, it should be the doctor contacting the DMV rather than leaving it up to family.  If some states require physicians to report diagnoses of dementia, then it's the law, fair or not.


Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Saturday, November 9, 2019 6:54 PM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3181

That is the truth about the law and that is also why doctors do not want to give a diagnose because of the law. I heard it first hand from them. So what does that tell you. The law is wrong and so are so many people like you. Thank god there are people like me who believe in human rights for all people.


And by the way you are also wrong about the MMSE Vs the MOCA. There is only one pot difference between the two. The MOCA is harder and will score 1 point less vs the other. {lease keep telling your selves why you take the license away to make yourself  feel good. And insurance does pay for the first accident unless they had an accident and told not to drive after it. People should really do there homework instead of just believing people who make thinks up or because they heard bad information from someone else.  I became very successful in life because I did not believe people and I verified information. I also did not believe those that were experts and I was able to prove them wrong and saved millions because of that.

Posted: Saturday, November 9, 2019 9:09 PM
Joined: 7/19/2018
Posts: 41

Thanksgiving 2013, my mother who lived 20 minutes away was supposed to come to my house around 5 PM for dinner.  I had offered up one of my 2 sons to come pick her up and take her back home.  She said no she would drive herself. 

When she didn't show, I figured she forgot or was asleep, and to be honest, I was kinda glad as she had been hell on wheels for a couple months prior.  

Something told me to call and check on her around 8 that evening.  No answer on home phone, called cell phone no answer.  I knew then something was off, my gut said so.  At this point, she would always call me back shortly after I left her a message.  9 pm no response, so I headed to her house.  

She was not there, cell laying on dresser.  I knew then she was missing.  Called police reported her missing with dementia.  They put out bolo alert to local police and 2 surrounding counties.

They found her at 1 am.  She was stopped at a green light, and when it turned red she drove through it.  Just happened to be local county deputy on other side of the road.

He assumed drunk driver, got behind her, called in plate and they informed him of the situation and immediately called me.

Her low gas light was on, it was already about 20 degrees out, and she was one county over, headed down a deserted back road when she pulled over for the cop.  Had they not spotted her, she would have run out of gas, and very likely froze to death that night.

She still raled on about how she was perfectly fine for about a year AFTER this incident. I disabled her car that weekend, and it had to go to the shop to be fixed and never came back.  

I got lucky and my mom wasn't a news story.  Some aren't so lucky.  As family, we know long before doctors or law makers that things like driving are dangerous.  Dont feel guilty about keeping your LO safe when they no longer can.  Do what you can, when you can, and how you can.

My thoughts are with everyone that has to deal with this horrid disease.  


Posted: Sunday, November 10, 2019 2:24 PM
Joined: 1/28/2013
Posts: 2647

The most horrid part of this horrid disease is that many of those who have it are unaware of their impairments.  This leads to tragedies of all sorts, including death, causing harm to others, financial ruin, and the destruction of good will within the family.  With some patients, it's a constant fight from the first decision with the car to personal hygiene and right up to the end with severe falls caused by forgetting to remain in bed.  The worst emotional harm to a caregiver is being seen as the enemy by those you are trying to help.

With your mom, the most frightening thing was not getting lost and possibly freezing.  It was the confusion between the red and green lights, stopping on green and proceeding through red.  How do we know when that part of a LO's brain has gone ping and mixed up that basic knowlege?  Driving is not a human right, it is a privilege because of the possibility of causing harm to others.

Posted: Sunday, November 10, 2019 4:32 PM
Joined: 10/12/2018
Posts: 91

A few years before my mother was diagnosed, or even thought to have dementia, she forgot to stop before she backed through the front glass doors of the grocery store after shopping.   Much damage, no one hurt fortunately.  She never accepted responsibility for the incident.  Dad did not prohibit her from driving, however, he was always the gentleman and offered to drive her anywhere and anytime.   That worked and she didn't drive again.   Years later after dad died and she was living with me (early-to-mid-stage dementia), she blamed me for selling her car and not letting her drive.  She didn't even remember the grocery-store incident or that she hadn't driven since.   I was so happy that I never had to deal with her owning a car and having a driver's license.   But, I would never have let her drive regardless of her protestations.   I've always disliked the saying: "if it saves one life, it's worth it",  however I believe it's applicable to driving with dementia.   I could never forgive myself if she, or anyone else, was injured as a result.    With the advent of Uber, Lyft, Carts and many other ways of transport, it's simply not worth the risk.
Posted: Monday, November 11, 2019 11:16 AM
Joined: 2/20/2017
Posts: 27

My dad refuses to stop driving. The last time I was in the car with him, about a year ago, I was paralyzed in fear so I refuse to be in a car with him. His doctors say he shouldn't drive, but he doesn't care what they say. I have no idea how to get him to stop driving. I can't hide the keys because the dementia isn't that advanced where he would forget, but it's bad enough that he shouldn't be driving. I'm just stuck with this issue and so many others, so I know where you are coming from.
Posted: Monday, November 11, 2019 2:12 PM
Joined: 11/2/2019
Posts: 31

I understand where you're coming from. Even though my mom's test score was low, she is still very "with it" in the sense that she can smell BS from a mile away, and the out of sight/ out of mind trick just won't do it with her. What I did was have her doctor send the diagnosis to the DDS and they sent a letter saying either she needs to have a doctor fill out paperwork on her behalf outlining her diagnosis, and then she will need to take a driving assessment, or her license would be revoked. I am sure she is going to fail the assessment. After that happens, it is out of your hands, and illegal for them to drive. I'll also say that my mom initially put up a huge fight when I took her car key, I mean she really let me have it. But a week or so later she's moved on. 

What I kept thinking when it was really hard on me was what someone else has already said - how could I look at a victim of  a car accident knowing I let my mom drive when she wasn't capable of driving safely anymore? I had to bite the bullet and be willing to really tick her off in order to keep herself and everyone else safe. I figure its something I need to get used to doing as she is only going to continue to need more intervention against her wishes as her symptoms progress.

Posted: Monday, November 11, 2019 2:46 PM
Joined: 1/28/2013
Posts: 2647

It has been correctly stated that without support from the medical community and the DMV it is theft to remove a person's car without their permission and it is vandalism to disable a car.  This is why I do not judge family that has their hands legally tied without cooperation from a doctor.

My own mother was still very high functioning in most areas besides executive function and judgement.  She was capable of calling Triple A and having her car started.  She was capable of reporting her car stolen if I had taken it, and from the tenor of our argument, she was quite willing to.  She could still hold it together for short doctor visits or conversations with strangers, so I don't know how it would have been for me if the police had become involved.  My mother had always been a very socially responsible person and would never have endangered anyone in her right mind.  We even had a decades old agreement that I would tell her when it was time to stop driving.  This was the first taste of what the uninitiated call the stubbornness and self-centeredness of old people.  It is, sadly, a feature of dementia in the earlier stages.  It gets much worse in the later stages.

It's over for me, but I don't like to see new caregivers demoralized the way I was when I first came to this board.  You can no longer reason with your LO successfully.  There is no point in making yourself crazy trying or feeling guilty about what you must do.  Speak to the primary physician with your concerns and get do it legally.

Posted: Monday, November 11, 2019 3:06 PM
Joined: 6/11/2019
Posts: 517

Mercifully, my mom's birthday came and went last week and with it, her current DL expired! She had been upset for a while about it and had been determined to do testing (she would have had to do both driving AND written this year). I'm hoping that door was closed.

What I HAD been telling her was: It wasn't her driving skills I was worried about (though I actually did have a little concern there). It was more her MEMORY and the idea that she could drive off and get lost and something bad happen to her and no one even know where to look for her.


Posted: Monday, November 11, 2019 7:14 PM
Joined: 7/19/2018
Posts: 41

Unforgiven wrote:

It has been correctly stated that without support from the medical community and the DMV it is theft to remove a person's car without their permission and it is vandalism to disable a car.  This is why I do not judge family that has their hands legally tied without cooperation from a doctor.

I guess I'm a thief and a vandal then, oh well.  Mom did call the cops twice.  Both times, it took them all of 5 minutes speaking to her to realize what was up and something wasn't right with her.  They called me, I explained what I did, they assured her car was in the shop and went on their way.  So I guess they were accomplices to my theft and vandalism as well.

Posted: Tuesday, November 12, 2019 8:32 AM
Joined: 11/2/2019
Posts: 31

Teresa, be assured no one here thinks you are a thief or vandal! My assumption is that the point was being made that some families struggle with this driving conundrum out of a fear of legal ramification, and that fear may be valid. We are all in agreement that keeping your LO and others safe is top priority and I am glad that the police officers in your case backed you up in that effort.
Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2019 11:18 AM
Joined: 11/13/2017
Posts: 20

Handling driving privileges with an LO with dementia is very difficult. Does your state have an at-risk drivers program? In some states, if you have concerns that someone should not be driving, you can file a report with the DMV stating why. The DMV reviews the report and determines whether the driver should be asked to pass a driving test. This is helpful, because then it's not about you taking away driving privileges but rather the driver being unable to demonstrate driver fitness.

In my case, I'm dealing with my 78 year-old mother who was diagnosed with dementia/Alzheimers several years ago, which has steadily progressed and she now lives in memory care. However, 2 years ago, she was still at home with her car. Her doctor told me she shouldn't drive anymore, but rather than me fly home to take away her car--which would have been a nasty scene--I filed a report with the DMV. They reviewed the report and determined that my mother should take a driving test. My mother was notified of this fact by mail, which she received (she read the letter to me over the phone). And then....she never did it. Despite getting additional warnings, her license was suspended a couple months later. Because even that didn't cause my mother to stop driving, I had a friend put a club on her steering wheel until I could fly home to donate the car.

The most telling thing to me was my mother's inability to get retested--I'm not talking about passing the test, but even connecting the dots that she needed to get retested or her license would be suspended. I later found about 10 copies of the state drivers manual in various drawers around the house--evidence that she at least understood she needed to study for the test, but was still unable to remember she already had a manual, had already studied, needed to go the DMV to take the test, etc. Driving requires a lot of mental capacity. Hers was clearly gone. Despite the difficulty in what I did, I know I did the right thing.


Gig Harbor
Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2019 7:26 PM
Joined: 3/10/2016
Posts: 634

Michael I am curious to know what your wife thinks of your driving? I had to ask my husband to stop driving when he admitted he was getting lost. At that time he was still appearing to drive OK but when I asked him where the car registration and insurance papers were he took his wallet apart to find them. They have always been in the glove compartment . It was things like that that made me concerned and he has not driven since. I explained how horrible it would be if he hit and killed someone. He blew that off. I was surprised because when he was a child he was riding a bike along with his brother. They were hit by a confused old man. He was injured and his brother was killed. Now he is the confused old man and I could not risk history replaying itself.


Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2019 6:05 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3181

My wife was also ready to take my license away when the doctor told her over 10 years ago I should stop driving. She was also told the bullsh-- stores about insurance would not cover me and one day I may be in an accident and don’t know when. Since that time she had called the insurance company and others and they were all wrong. She did not listen to those who were spreading rumors. I also went out and seeked the best of minds to create a radio show about this topic.  Al over the world this false perception is slowly starting to change and they are now starting to relook at there procedures. Just in the last 5 years many are string to say that we would not automatically take the license away. It will take along time for those changes to affect the laws.


My wife drives with me every week and I drive fine. She will tell you that but also has concerns because I am so bad in other things.  She can not even understand how it is possible. Most recently I even drove my boat with two engines and I shocked even the dock master how I was able to turn it around in a 50ft area. The boat is 48Ft. This is by far so much more complicated then driving a car.


Some how I have been lucky to not have that part if the brain attacked. Do I have issues, Absolutely.   Am I better them many who have license and do not have dementia? Absolutely. Do I know my time is running out and I will have to give it up.   Absolutely. I speak to an insurance agent about ever close call I have had and let them decide if I should stop. I think I had 2-3 in all of these years. Do I get lost. All the time but that is why I use GPS. It will eventually get me there if I turn wrong.


I totally believe people need to stop driving but it is not as easy as many folks try to make it look. This is one of the number one reasons doctors refuse to say one lives with dementia on their chart. That should tell you the docs don’t believe with the laws. 10 years from now we will not be talking about this I hope. 

Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2019 6:11 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3181

I should also add that the new technology in cars will probably allow me to drive even longer. It is like haveing an eye on you when you are driving and points out any errors you make so you always know if you did something wrong. All of those lives can be extended to live not only in the car but in the house with better creative technology. Anything can be done if folks would just work together to make it happen. 

Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Saturday, November 16, 2019 1:54 PM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3181

I am so proud of myself. We could have been seriously injured in a car accident today. The traffic came to a sudden stop on I95 which is a major highway and I was in the far left lane. As I looked back in the mirror I could see a car coming fast without breaking. I stepped hard on the gas and turned the car to the left side and went of the off the road. When the other car finally stopped it was right next to me not far from the front of my doors just alongside of me.. This could have ended badly for my wife and I.  The point I am making is there are many idots out there that are far worse then us living with dementia and I see them constantly on the road. This was a fairly young person about 35-40. I know you were thinking another person with dementai.    

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