As I write this post, I am reminded of that ABC show “What would You Do?” Last week, ABC re-aired John Quiniones’ broadcast about a disoriented elderly driver. A 92 year old actor posed as an elderly man who seemed confused and disoriented as he wandered around asking passersby, “Excuse me, can you help me find my car?”
Irene Wielawski who writes for the New York Times blog called The New Old Age chose vandalism as a method for ending her elderly mother’s ability to drive. Drastic? Maybe. Necessary? Well, in some cases it may be the only way to be sure your parent isn’t endangering their life or the lives of others.
How do I know when it’s time to have “the talk” with mom or dad?
- Do you see scrapes or dents on the car, mailbox or garage doors?
- Does the driver fail to notice traffic signs or activity on the side of the road?
- Does he have trouble navigating left-hand turns?
- Is he driving at inappropriate speeds? Too fast or too slow?
- Does he/she get lost?
- Does he/she become angry or confused while driving?
How do I start the conversation?
- Make an Informal Driving Agreement. The Agreement about Driving can help caregivers and persons with dementia plan ahead for the time when the person with dementia must limit or stop driving. This informal agreement does not restrict driving at the moment of signing, but designates a person to take necessary steps to ensure driving safety in the future.
- Take a Driving Assessment. Visiting a professional for a comprehensive driving assessment takes the guesswork out of evaluating your parent’s driving skills.
- Download Hartford’s Free Car Safety Guides. There are guidebooks available on a variety of topics that provides families with easy-to-use, practical information to help them plan ahead and initiate productive and caring conversations with older adults about driving safely.
If mom or dad won’t voluntarily give up driving, what can I do to protect them?
- Solicit the support of others. Talk to their doctor. Ask the doctor to write the person a “do not drive” prescription. You can then use this letter or prescription to remind mom or dad that they are not allowed to drive.
- Disable the car by removing the distributor cap or the battery.
- Keep the car out of sight. Tell the parent that “the car is in the shop”. Seeing the car may act like a visual cue to drive.
- Assure the person that a ride will be available if he or she needs to go somewhere. Have a list of contacts who can provide transportation, such as family members, friends, taxis or community transportation services.
- Have prescription medicines, groceries or meals delivered, reducing the person’s need to drive.
- Have the person tested by the Department of Motor Vehicles. In some states you can write a letter to the DMV and report the elderly person’s dementia, Alzheimer’s, or any other diagnosis that causes difficulty with driving.