Alzheimer's and Dementa Caregiving, Dementia Caregiver Stories

Driving

Ugh, this is a tough one. Unless it's not - then, good for you.

Things to know

Determining when and how to stop your Loved One from driving is a process. You have to weigh:

  • Whether your Loved One can safely drive

  • How to maximize safety while not prematurely taking away independence

  • Minimizing anxiety, depression, or other negative consequences

ISSUE

Determining when your Loved One should stop is tricky.  Early on, your Loved One may be able to safely drive.

 

If you wait, you may be anxious about their or others’ safety. As they decline it may be harder for them to understand and accept the need to stop driving.

 

Doctors and others can help you assess when but, if you are questioning their safety, you may already know.

TIMING

Some people stop on their own.  Some are ok with someone else suggesting they drive. Some “misplace” the keys and that’s that. No big deal. Some people accept a doctor telling them it’s time. Some don’t -- and that can be really hard for the family and Loved One. 

If you're in the last group, it may take a long time and you may need support to minimize your and your Loved One's stress. 

AN APPROACH

How they did it

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JOHN

Age: Early 60s

Loved One: Wife, Mid-50s

Diagnosis: Early Onset

Years Since Diagnosis: 5

The driving evaluation has two parts -- an in office reaction test and an on road driving test. She was terrible at her reactions on a model gas and brake pedal.  The following tests were a mess. She cried. She wanted to quit. She took more than two hours on a test that was supposed to take 90 minutes. She missed the road test.  She failed the reaction time and other parts of the test. They recommended that her driving should be “restricted.” Fortunately, She declared “I am done driving.” We were lucky that we addressed driving early. She could understand the danger. I found it was better to address these big things a little too early than a little too late. 

 

Turned out, she didn't miss driving. She just didn't want to be homebound.

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KATE

Age: Early 60s

Loved One: Husband, Mid-60s

Diagnosis: Vascular Dementia

Years Since Diagnosis: 3

I took the keys and I’d carry them with me. He put a bullet in the pantry. In a threatening voice, he said I wasn't going to be happy with him. I took all his guns away before. But I didn't know if he had another gun. He clearly had bullets.  I felt so unsafe. I gave him his keys back with the stipulation that he only drove to certain places during certain times of the day. He would get the gas but he’d lose his wallet or credit card.  I watched the speedometer and I saw that when he went to the doctor a mile away he had travelled over 90 miles. He was getting lost.  There were scratches on the car.   

 

I regret that I  didn't find a way to stop his driving.

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JENNIFER

Age: Early 60s

Loved One: Husband, Mid-60s

Diagnosis: Early Onset

Years Since Diagnosis: 1

I’d say every three months we still have an argument about him not driving. He’ll say he has to go here or there. And I’ll say his companion can drive him anywhere he wants to go and he will get agitated.   I say “the doctor said you can’t drive but if you want to go take a driving test, let's do that next week.” That always works. He cries. But then he'll forget about it for the next three months. 

 

After the 911 call, when I felt that he really needed someone with him all the time, I said the doctor says it's not a good idea for you to drive. I’ve always been the driver. 

How you can do it

Learn more about how other caregivers have navigated financial and legal planning

MORE DRIVING STORIES

We are building a guide to help you and your family make a driving plan. Have ideas on what you would find helpful? Let us know!

COMING SOON -

DRIVING GUIDE