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How do you handle the guilt?
Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 10:38 AM
Joined: 10/19/2019
Posts: 8

We recently told my grandmother that she cannot be driving anymore. Three different doctors had recommended that at her stage of dementia she should no longer drive, so we decided to go ahead and have the conversation with her. She cried. All she kept saying is "I'm a good driver, I've never done anything wrong." ect.... And she's right. She hasn't crashed or gotten into a wreck. Recently she has run over large curbs and things like that, so we didn't want to risk a more severe situation. I know this is doctors orders and I know that this is in the best interest for her and everyone else on the road. But it hurts to see her upset. She's sad and feels like we are punishing her. It hurts to think that she drove for the last time and didn't even know it would be the last time. 

How have you all handled this guilt? It really hurts to see her so sad about losing her independence so suddenly. 

Rescue mom
Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 11:07 AM
Joined: 10/12/2018
Posts: 1500

I looked at most of such things like dealing with a toddler you have to protect. Sometimes they get upset because you don’t let them play in the road, or because they are not allowed to play “House” with cleaning chemicals. Yes, they are upset, but it’s for their own protection and benefit, as well as others safety.

You know what else is sad? I live in a big retiree area. Regularly the news shows an elder in the courtroom, or in handcuffs, or sobbing on the street, because “I never had a problem driving before,” “I just stopped for a second,” “I thought this was my turn,” etc.. 

They are being arrested, or hearing a jail sentence, or being they’ve lost everything in a lawsuit, because they caused damage or worse in a car accident. Quite often they say they’ve had no “big” problems driving, but here they are.

Even little accidents can get big when lawyers, looking for easy money, see where a senior was involved in an accident. If their doctor advised no driving, it gets much worse, real fast.

You are protecting your LO from having to go through that. Keep the car out of sight, and soon (sadly) she will forget about this issue.

Yes, it’s hard. But now we have to protect them like they protected us.

Eric L
Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 11:24 AM
Joined: 12/5/2014
Posts: 1288

This is something that I hadn't even thought about until recently, but to echo what Rescue mom said, if a lawyer even gets a small whiff that Grandma might have assets that are worth something and gets into an accident, they will go after them. A savvy lawyer might also go after her caregivers if they allowed her to continue driving after the doctor said to stop. If she got into an accident and her insurance company learned that she had been advised to stop driving by her doctors, there is a good chance that they won't cover anything. As side from any physical damage she could cause, she (and family) could be ruined financially.

All that said, it doesn't make it any easier on you or her to take the keys away. Just keep repeating that the doctors (make them the bad guy if necessary) won't allow her to drive anymore and that if she needs to go somewhere that someone will always be available to take her.
Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 11:34 AM
Joined: 9/15/2019
Posts: 96

Hillybean, I am so sorry you are going through this.  I have been in your shoes and I felt horrible guilt.  Time is going to be your friend.  It’s been two months now since I had to take my Dad’s keys.  He doesn’t mention driving anymore at all.  His car is in the garage and he looks at it, and he knows it stays there.  Every time my Dad used to mention driving I would say that the Drs said he cannot.  That was all I said.  He would rattle on and complain and I just said “I understand”.   He said the same thing, that he was a good driver and never had an accident.  I felt guilty, but now I am so relieved he doesn’t drive.  I have realized his brain cannot process information like ours.  He could have hurt someone if he got into a situation where he could not process the information correctly.  Like going the same way to the store everyday, he could do that, but if there was a road block, a detour, a bus unloading students, I think he wouldn’t have been able to process all the information in his brain.  I hope that makes sense.  Your mom will stop asking and talking about driving.  Time is your friend.  Hang in there!!
Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 4:04 PM
Joined: 10/9/2014
Posts: 1091

It hurts to see our LO upset, but, I'd try to focus on the positive, since, she has avoided hurting herself or anyone else on the road.  I agree with others about what kind of horrible situation she would be in, if she hurt someone and they discovered that she had been told not to drive.  Plus, how culpable are her caregivers?  You did the right thing. 

I would feel guilty, if I stood by and did not intervene. Also, keep in mind that she will forget this sadness and disappointment. Most seniors realize that they can't drive forever, but, with dementia, they can no longer process the reasoning of why they can no longer do it. It's not fair, but, it's the right thing. 

Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 6:09 PM
Joined: 4/5/2013
Posts: 863

Keep reminding yourself that you did the right thing, and that you bear no blame for Grandmother's diminished abilities.  Yes, it is sad.  But think how much sadder would it be for her to hurt or kill another person while driving.  Console her as best you can, and be gentle with yourself too.
Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 6:22 PM
Joined: 8/12/2017
Posts: 249

The time to stop driving is before something bad happens, not after.
Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 7:44 PM
Joined: 4/7/2019
Posts: 115

hillybean, I know how you feel. We had to take away my sister's car keys for the same reason. I felt horrible about it, and she felt like she was being punished for something she didn't even do. She even said "but I didn't do anything wrong!"  And she hadn't done anything wrong - yet.  By her own admission, she couldn't see the white lines on the dark asphalt, so she was an accident waiting to happen.

Like everyone has said though, it's about keeping your LO safe, and those around your LO safe.

The way we got around it was to agree that if there's a cure, and she is cured, she can drive again, so the prohibition doesn't sound so final or absolute. No one is kidding themselves here, we both know the chances of a cure are slim (but not zero!).  This is more about saving face, giving hope, and accepting the situation.  If those kinds of bargains make her feel better, then I'm okay with it.

Posted: Sunday, November 10, 2019 8:00 PM
Joined: 10/5/2016
Posts: 143

The doctor will not mind taking the blame. At the right time, I explained to my wife that she couldn’t move her foot from gas to brake quick enough and she wouldn’t want to hit a child that might run out in front of her. She never asked to drive again but she did miss it.  ALSO, I made sure either I or her sister took her anywhere she needed to go.   Mostly, I knew she could get lost. I was blessed that my wife accepted so many changes and she was only 66.
Posted: Monday, November 11, 2019 6:13 AM
Joined: 3/6/2017
Posts: 2223

hillybean3015 wrote:


How have you all handled this guilt? It really hurts to see her so sad about losing her independence so suddenly. 

At the end of the day, guilt is to some degree unavoidable. For me, the best approach is to choose over what I would rather carry guilt. I can live more easily with my parents' loss of driving privileges than them killing someone. 

Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2019 2:46 PM
Joined: 2/13/2018
Posts: 40

Hillybean, it is so hard to see your LO's independence diminish. My mom puts a lot of faith in doctors. They have always been high on her list for respect. How does your grandmother feel about doctors? If she feels the same way as my mom, maybe you could spin it that the doctor doesn't want her to drive any more, for her own safety. You don't need to mention other drivers' safety unless you think that it would help. Make sure family members make time in their schedules to take grandma to her appointments and run her errands. These things are important to her. Best, books4fun
Rox Kelly
Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2019 4:24 PM
Joined: 5/21/2019
Posts: 17

Very tough situation.  Count blessings, especially that she has not had an accident in which she hurt someone or worse killed someone.  Just think how guilty you would have felt if this would have happened.
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