• Kathryn Watson

Dementia and Driving


Are you concerned about an elderly parent who possibly has dementia and is driving around town? Many of us shutter when we think about an elderly parent driving. If we know or suspect, they have dementia our antenna will rise up considerably! So many things can go wrong. Will they get into an accident? Will Mom get lost? What if Dad suddenly forgets how to drive?

These are all real and logical concerns.

So why don’t the adult children just take away the keys. Ah, if it were only that simple. The truth is most people will have varying degrees of dementia before they ever get diagnosed. It could be years before a proper diagnosis is delivered.

Does mom have dementia or not?

Often someone close will begin to notice signs of a possible problem. But the symptoms that raise concern may come and go. Let’s face it, this is not something you really want to believe or consider. Many of us are really good at sweeping stuff we are uncomfortable with under the rug. And boy is dementia uncomfortable. Talking to Mom or Dad about the possibility they may have Dementia and as such should not be driving- Well that is probably toward the top of the list of uncomfortable conversations to have.

When one sibling sees the problem and the others do not.

If you are the sibling who is noticing there is a problem, there is a good chance your brothers and sisters will not be on board with you in that belief.

The brother who lives in another state may tell you that he talks to mom every week and she sounds just fine. The trouble is, most of the time this “conversation” he has with mom is very one sided. He talks to mom about all of the wonderful things he and his family is doing and she replies appropriately, “That’s wonderful honey”.

Towards the end of the conversation he will ask how she is doing and if she is feeling okay. To this she will reply, “I am just fine honey, now don’t you worry about me.”

What she doesn't say is...

She won’t mention that she is having trouble remembering things and cannot seem to figure out what to do with the checkbook. She won’t tell him that she was lost for 2 hours in a subdivision close by where she has lived for the last 60 years. These secrets she will hold close to her heart. Because she doesn’t want to believe this could be happening to her either.

And so she still drives.

The sibling who has begun to notice there may be a problem does not want to cause a family feud so she says and does nothing. If you are the sibling who thinks there may be a problem, I urge you to listen to that voice inside that is telling you it is time to have that uncomfortable conversation.

If your family will not back you up, join a caregiver support group to get the moral support you need. Talk to your pastor or a family friend and ask if they will help you to have this conversation about dementia and driving before it’s too late.

Have options in place.

Coming into Mom’s home and announcing that you are taking away the keys will not go over very well if Mom thinks she will be a prisoner in her home with no way to get to the store, doctors or anywhere else she needs to go. If you can hire a driver for a few hours two or three days a week to take mom where she needs to go.

Routines help someone with dementia.

Have a set routine so she knows that her driver will be available every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and you will come and get her on Sundays. Once mom gets settled into the routine she will have less anxiety about not being able to drive.

Find a schedule that works for both of you so Mom feels like she still has some independence. Nobody wants to have to call their child every time they need milk or bread at the store! With a hired driver, Mom will hopefully be more comfortable.

But this is just the first step

It is really important to begin paying close attention to how well mom is able to handle her day to day affairs and activities of daily living. At some point she will need more assistance.

Join a caregiver group

This is a great place to learn from others. Hindsight is always better than foresight.Members of the group can help you to understand how to spot potential problems before they happen.

Start looking at memory care facilities and homes.

Even if you have no intention of placing mom you should still look. Sometimes life has a way of throwing us a curve ball. You do not know what the future may bring. Mae planned to care for her mom until the very end she told me. But a diagnosis of breast cancer changed her plans. We just do not know what may happen in our lives. Being prepared with options will make sticky situations less stressful.

Find out what the different options in your community are. In Pearland, and Clear Lake City, Texas there are both large and small facilities that are Alzheimer's Certified. Light Heart Memory Care has several small homes (only 8 to a home). They want to create an environment that feels as much like home as possible.

Also read: Vascular Dementia- How Is It Different From Alzheimer's

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Pat Mack has been helping families make the right decisions to care for someone they love since 1997. Email Her Today for more information.

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#Dementia

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