CHECK OUT www.alz.org/driving
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can impair insight and judgment, making it difficult for people to understand that their driving is no longer safe. Also cognitive diseases can cause mood and personality changes that make reactions more pronounced.
This site includes four wonderful videos that show how families and friends begin the driving discussion. I urge you to watch all four of them. I include one of them here, just to get you started. Your scenario will be different from any of these, but they will give your courage.
HAVE THE CONVERSATION
As with everything else to do with aging, planning ahead while the family is not in crisis is the best way to address the issue of driving. This starts with having a simple conversation.
Actually, the conversation is not so simple because it triggers complex emotions. These include fear of dependency, frustration, humiliation, loss of self-worth, and, ultimately, fear of death. Anger may be triggered for any number of reasons. Yet, if you love your elders you MUST have this conversation in order to best plan for the future. Here are some tips:
- Initiate a Dialogue.
- Reinforce Medical Diagnosis and Directives.
- Demonstrate Understanding and Empathy.
- Stress the Positive while Offering Alternatives.
- Address Resistance Firmly while Offering Support.
- Offer Unconditional Love and Support.
- Appeal to Sense of Responsibility.
- Involve Family and Close Friends.
- Confront Resistance.
- Develop an Agreement.
- Be Prepared for the Person to Become Angry with You.
There are a number of practical steps you can take that will help you feel in control when driving becomes your issue and will help your family reinforce decisions made when everyone could think more clearly.
Understand when driving has become a safety risk. The driving site has a useful list of warning signs.
Ask Your Doctor for a “Prescription” to stop Driving. Sometimes the voice of an “authority” can be better accepted than that of a relative.
Prepare a written agreement. The third video does a terrific job of showing how this can be done. It isn’t that complicated.
Transfer the title of the car. This will tell your family you are serious and will make it easier for others to help you.
Have driving skills reevaluated. If you don’t want to go to the DMV, ask an Occupational Therapist to do an evaluation.
Install a GPS Location Monitor in the car.
Take Away the Car Keys. This is a last resort but may be necessary.
Disable or Remove the Car. When someone can no longer make safe decisions, you MUST step in, no matter how painful it is.
ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF TRANSPORTATION
Losing the ability to drive can be terrifying because of the implicit loss of independence. When you develop alternative sources of transportation some of that fear is relieved. Not driving doesn’t mean not being in the world. You just have to get there differently.
Make your own list of local transportation sources and keep adding to it. Start with three different car/taxi services, names and numbers of friends who drive, public transportation, destinations within walking distance, and community services. You should also create a budget item for paying for transportation. It will help you realize that you can afford it.