Driving is a right, and I think that is wrong.

Unless we sue for guardianship, there is really nothing we can do to help my parents right now … unless they ask and we do it in the moment of the asking.

My parents have had an apartment in a retirement community for ten years. They were aware of the possibility that they would have issues later in life. However, it’s “independent living” and now I understand that even the retirement community would have to call Adult Protective Services if my parents start getting into more and more trouble and aren’t making good choices.

Then again, even Adult Protective Services can’t make them accept help either. Is America’s system of freedom balanced to meet the needs of its aging citizens?

I hope that now that their behavior and confusion are beyond their ability to hide from the outside world, they will listen to the help that is available from the other options in their community.

While this is a great county, I wonder if we are handling this “freedom” thing right. I’m perplexed why there aren’t more measures put into place to make driving a privilege at all ages. A privilege you earn.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 1 in 8 adults over 65 years of age are moderately demented (at 85 it’s HALF). Given those statistics, shouldn’t the DMV consider requiring more stringent measures to renew a driver’s license?

Both my parents’ licenses were renewed within the past year. They were savvy enough to have them done before they turned 80. When you are 80 you simply have to pass a vision test. Appalled.

20 thoughts on “Driving is a right, and I think that is wrong.

  1. Kay,

    You can contact the driver’s license office on line and report that your parents are unfit to drive. You can also have their doctor write a letter saying they cannot drive & send this to the insurance company. What I encourage you to do is TAKE CONTROL. You are allowing your parents to make all of the decisions. Don’t make that mistake. Your parents will NEVER think they need help…NEVER! My Mom thinks she can live alone; she can’t. She fell again two days ago. We are getting her help whether or not she likes it! Oh, TAKE AWAY the car keys. My Mom never learned to drive so we don’t have to deal with this issue – thank God!

    1. Thanks – having two parents seems to be a major complication. They can simply reorder keys. The other options take time and we are trying to be patient with the system we have.

      My hope is that as a country, we don’t make kids take keys and disengage starters, but have a functioning system that makes everyone, young and old, earn the right to drive. It’s already hard.

      1. Kay,

        Yes, it’s hard. You must take control. Kids MUST take the keys and disengage starters. If you concentrate on what you CAN do and not what the system SHOULD do, you will get through this. Your parents cannot re-order keys for a car that doesn’t exist. Park the car somewhere else, sell it, I know none of these options are EASY but they WORK.

      2. If ONLY the choices were up to me. I have 3 siblings making this more complex in many ways, but also more bearable. We are working through this. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Suggestion: Get a neurologist involved so they are the “bad guy” and not you. That’s what we did for my dad. He was forced to take a state test that included cognititive assessment. He got lost and failed. As much as he hated giving up his licence (I accompanied him and made a ritual out of it), he blames the Doctor and not his family. Even blaming the Dr., he knows is not realistic, but he needs that.

  3. I totally agree with the other comments. No one really wants to give up driving. But my dad was getting lost and confused too. I asked hIs regular doctor to tell him not to drive. But it took an accident that put mom in the hospital to make him even think about it. And it was a year or two later that he finally stopped. I couldn’t even get the neurologist to say he shouldn’t drive as the neurologist was just looking ad dad’s vision after a stroke and it looked fine to him. I was thousands of miles away and couldn’t talk to the neurologist at that time. I am thankful dad finally gave up the car, but I should have contacted the drivers license bureau. That would have gotten dad off the road a few years sooner.

  4. Great points Kay! To me, it seems that at a certain age, perhaps we revert back to the 18/21 year old rule where you become a legal adult for voting, military, ownership, consensual sex, etc, and you begin to lose certain rights if you can’t demonstrate or prove you are proficient and have the capacity to comprehend and/or be safe. It is probably a slippery slope to some degree, but there are hard and fast rules for certain professions, and the airlines rules for pilots comes to mind, i.e. semi-annual physicals and psychological testing, and finally force retirement at specific ages. It does seem the public safety toward driving is rather lacks in my view, but then again, not everybody gets dementia. It also seems from my perspective, society would rather brush the issues under the rug and avoid them, than having an infrastructure and services that embraces support for with issues. We seem to get our children to school in school buses, feed, cloth and educate them for many years, but it becomes more complicated and difficult to do so in the senior years when there are problems.

    This would make a great topic for a national public debate for addressing housing, heath and psychological care, mobility, and respect for our aging and ailing seniors/loved ones.


  5. isn’t it so sad and also difficult when independence is being taken slowly away from elderly? just taking care of my brother who is now 57, he can no longer drive, or make legal decisions. he knows things are changing, and it upsets him also, which then makes me sad, as i have to do what is best and safest for him

    1. Terry,

      I understand your difficulties and emotional conflicts. I am also glad to know there are good siblings and people out there (like you) who care enough to take action with compassion. I hope/trust you have other siblings/family member(s), spouse, and/or professional(s) to help share the burden on all of the levels that matter.


  6. I have written quite a few blog posts on this issue, including last month: http://supportforhome.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/seniors-giving-up-driving/

    This issue is so incredibly sensitive for seniors. I get it. It is also something that families just need to confront clearly. The idea of losing a loved one due to an accident — or having them injure or kill a child because they should not be driving — trumps emotional sensitivity, in my view. When courts start holding family members — and doctors — liable for not removing the car keys, things will change, but that’s not the way it should happen.

    Bert Cave, President, Support For Home

  7. Thanks Bert — as you know, many of the options take time. My hope is one day instead of making loved ones act to take away a license, as a country we act to make everyone (young and old) earn the privilege.

  8. Kay – the idea of earning the license, not having it as a right, is so important! My spouse has just passed his retest even though the doctor’s statement was that he be denied a license. It makes no sense at all and it’s time this policy is changed. The statistics you mention more than make the case.

  9. Odd….this post just showed up in my RSS feed reader as new (posted 9 hours ago), on 928/2012. That seems to happen a lot with your blog, but no one else’s (I subscribed to over 30 feeds). Weird.

      1. Ahhhh…and all this time I was blaming my RSS reader 🙂
        I’ve had that happen with my business blog, using Blogger, so it’s probably a common thing with online blogging software. Shouldn’t be, though, they should have designed it with a “Do you want to republish this post?” button. Technology these days! 🙂

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