I know we're beating this topic to death, but it's so often the biggest challenge in so many families. I found this article in the archives from our own Paula Falk and wanted to share it with you.
Paula gives another perspective and more suggestions on how to deal with the challenge.
When is it time to give up the car keys? This is a real hot button for members of my support group, and for the community at large.
It’s a serious safety issue. The other day while I was driving to do a presentation, I was behind a gentleman who had a passenger in his car. I followed him for four miles or so, I was hesitant to pass him because he drifted back and forth across the traffic lane. I was unable to safely get around him, and when I finally did, I saw the entire left side of his car had multiple dings and dents.
All too often we see evidence of drivers who are no longer safe on the road. There are vehicle crashes, near misses, missed stop signs, and bad judgment on left hand turns. People come to a stop when no stop sign is indicated. They slow traffic by failing to signal a turn. There are unexplained dings, missing hubcaps, signs of damage in the garage or on the mailbox. Sometimes there are reports by concerned neighbors or friends. A loved one may get lost on a familiar street.
One of the most difficult challenges people face is to take away driving privileges. Whether it’s the spouse or a parent, people grimace at the thought of even trying to discuss the issue. It’s even more challenging when your loved one has dementia and does not realize or denies there is a problem.
Some people willingly give up the keys once they have awareness there is a problem. They may become nervous about getting in a car or going someplace and are greatly relieved if you offer to drive. This is the easiest scenario, and it’s what everyone wishes would happen.
But often it’s not that easy. Recently, a gentleman wrote a note to his wife’s neurologist in advance of her appointment, stating he needed help with his wife in dealing with the driving issue. They met with the doctor together. At the appointment, the doctor skillfully handled the situation, explaining to her that the tests he had done indicated she should not be driving. He told her he knew she would be devastated if something happened to others if she were behind the wheel. She agreed and accepted the recommendation. It was wise to take this approach because it took the pressure off family members. By conveying the message through an impartial third party, not only did the family experience great relief, but the spouse didn’t feel as if anyone was conspiring against her.
Some patients don’t relinquish the keys so easily. “I’m fine, I can drive,” they persist, leaving the loved one frustrated and at times, it can become a battle of wills. There may be feelings of ambivalence, are they really safe to drive? How does one respond? One strategy would be introducing the idea of getting a safe-driver test, offered for a fee at a local hospital. Having a driving test administered by a health care professional can provide direction, and relieve caregiver anxiety and stress. At times reporting unsafe drivers anonymously to the Department of motor vehicles, is the path people take. This will generate mandated testing.
A family meeting can be helpful whenever a change is necessary. It’s important to realize that when one’s ability to drive is taken away, their independence is threatened. Having the conversation and providing reassurance that while their life may be changing, their independence will be preserved as much as possible is helpful. They need to know that you’ll help them get where they need to go or arrange transportation so the important things in their lives will be minimally impacted.
Part of a family meeting might be exploring possible options. What public transportation is available? Might other family members or friends be able to provide a ride? Do a little advance research to learn what is available in your community, and think about possible options. Often the purpose of a family meeting is to let people know there is a problem and seek solutions. Be prepared for intense feelings: anger, relief, fear, loss, frustration may arise. Recognizing and validating feelings, while reassuring the individual that solutions can be found, will help all parties get through this difficult transition.
There are many places in our community to find support and education on the caregiving journey, including the Caregiver Resource Center at Senior Friendship Centers. To learn more, call 941. 556. 3268.
About Paula Falk
Paula Falk is the Director of the Caregiver Resource Center (CRC) and Adult Day Service Program at The Living Room at Senior Friendship Centers’ Sarasota campus. The Caregiver Resource Center is a community collaboration bringing together agencies and businesses offering services and products to help caregivers through one of life’s more challenging times. Caregiver tips and insights are also featured on 10 Minutes with Paula, on blogtalk radio. For more information on the Caregiver Resource Center, call 941.556.3270, email email@example.com, or visit www.friendshipcenters.org
Photo Credit: © Andres Rodriguez - Fotolia.com