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Driving the car
My mother-in-law was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's a few years ago. The three children (siblings) have all notice a decline in memory and daily task. She has very good days and then very bad days. Recently she was escorted home by a police office after making a poor driving decision by pulling in front of some on coming traffic. She could not remember where she was supposed to be going when the officer pulled her over. My sister-in-law was called and she was escorted home. The three children decided that it was time to take the vehicle away.
After just a day of the vehicle being gone we all got consistent calls from her because she could not remember where or what happen with the vehicle. She was becoming very upset, irritated, and very angry about not having the car. They came up with a story that the vehicle was in the shop. Of course she could not remember this and was calling sometimes pass midnight wondering where the vehicle was. It came such a distressing time for her that they decided to give the vehicle back and put it in the garage. They now are working on that she is only allowed to drive the vehicle when someone is with her.
This seems to work pretty well except when she is home alone during the day. The keys are hidden from her so that she is unable to drive the vehicle. She calls everyone about not remembering where to she put the keys and gets very disappointed in herself for losing the keys. We all know that she did not lose them but they were hidden so she could not drive while the oldest son is at work.
She is starting to loose confidence in herself because she keeps "losing," the keys.
Is this the right approach when it comes to driving the vehicle? We do not want her to hurt herself, others, or get lost but at the same time we do not want her to feel disappointed in the matter that she cannot find the keys each day.
We know that if we tell her that she is not allowed to drive alone any more that she would forget and just go for a drive anyways.
Does anyone else have experience on what to do when it comes to taking keys away/supervised driving. Is there a better approach for this?
Thank you for your help,
McCrandall--Hoo boy, this driving stuff is the hardest! As American adults our identity is all wrapped up in being independent, and driving is so basic to that. My experience with my dad was really tough, even though I think he knew he shouldn't be driving. He'd get lost, he drove on the wrong side of the road and scared himself (and probably some other people) silly, and he'd forget to turn the car off when he got home. After he agreed to stop driving we gave him a fake key because he'd forget and get in the car to "go get a hamburger". He called a locksmith from the dealer. That was getting pretty frustrating for everyone, so we finally talked him into selling the car to a friend who "needed a safe car for his wife". I finally wound up buying a car with a push button start, and he hasn't figured that out yet. By the way, I also got the new car because he had a hard time getting in and out of my car--it was too low--but that didn't stop him from trying to use my car when he thought no one was watching.
It sounds like you're MIL shouldn't be driving at all, either. If somebody has POA you can just sell the car, but you'll need a good story to go along with that! This is so hard, good luck.
My Mom and her driving was the hardest for me. However, after discussing it with my brother and sister, I decided on leaving the car at her home but taking her keys. I did leave the key fob on her keyring. I simply put the key in an envelope and wrote on it why I had done it and how sorry I was that it had to be done. I put it in her gun safe in the garage, which she thinks she has the combination to but doesn't. I have the only spare set o my keyring.
It was actually about a month before she even noticed and we had our fight over it. After a few minutes of this fight, I was about to lose it and went and got the key and let her read the envelope. By this point, we were both in tears. She read what I wrote about why and how bad it hurt me to have to to do it, and picked up a pen.
She wrote "I agree." Then signed her name. But she always wants her car in her driveway because it looks like someone is home. That's a security thing for her.
Hope this helps.
I agree that this topic of driving is so difficult to manage and it seems to me that there are not any real answers to this situation. We all have to try and figure out what works for our individual situations and continually adjust to changes. My dad and I thought we finally had a plan in place. When my mom and dad are home together, he simply drives her wherever she needs to go and when he isn't home, he takes the keys to her car and if she calls looking for them, he pretends that he has the keys by accident.
After a recent Memory Care appointment (with neurologist) we discussed my mom's need to have someone drive her to exercise classes, hair salon, senior center, etc and my mom stated (like she always does) that she is fine to drive and has never been in a car accident. We all gently reminded her that she had a past evaluation by a neuropsychologist that determined she should not be driving. We tried to set up a plan for a companion or a driver to take her places when my dad has other commitments.
This stirred up a lot of emotions for my mom. I am confident that she does not remember much of the conversation but she does remember how this interaction made her feel- like she was losing all independence...and so now she is insisting on driving herself, even if my dad offers to drive her wherever she wants to go! She insists and protests and argues that she is fine to drive and my dad feels helpless to stop her. Just today when he returned home, she took the car keys from him and said, "I am going to the supermarket alone! I don't like this idea that I can't do anything by myself!"
We feel so helpless to keep her safe and others on the road.
There are no easy answers. One of the hardest things about this disease is that we have to become the parent. Like dealing with little kids, sometimes they don’t like what you do, but you still have to do it for their own best interests. You take the keys, you disable the card, or take it away. You do something, because they no longer can. You must protect them now.
If the LO with dementia causes any damage, not only do you have to live with the guilt, but be assured there could well be a lawsuit that costs you everything. Lawyers look for accidents like this, and will urge injured parties to sue. (Not casting blame on lawyers, it involves the law). You let or enabled a person with dementia to drive? It’s your fault as much as theirs, maybe more so. But you can all lose everything.
With cars, many times out of sight means out of mind. Don’t just hide the keys, take the car somewhere else. Soon enough they’ll forget.
Don’t just tell them they cannot drive. They will not remember, or cannot comprehend. Yea, they may be upset and angry for a while. That’s better than seeing them in a courtroom, on TV news, staring while being convicted of a crime. Maybe murder. I live in a retirement area, and that absolutely does happen.
Yes they will be upset at not having the car. They will soon forget and/or get past it. Even upset for a while is better than losing all your money to a lawsuit, or the guilt you/caregivers would have when something bad happens.