It’s Time to Take the Keys

My parents have both been diagnosed with dementia to varying degrees, and the medical team submitted a form to the DMV to rescind their licenses. While my mom has moderate to severe dementia, my dad (with a moderate dementia diagnosis) has been the driver. He is the only one whose license was revoked. We don’t know what happened to the request for my mom.

For several months we have discussed taking this step, but have disagreed as siblings. After three medical recommendations to my parents to stop driving, having my dad’s license revoked and he continues to drive, we could easily all agree it was time to act.

My mom has not really driven for several years. She would sometimes drive a few blocks to her bridge game, but when that moved, she stopped going. My dad has been encouraging her to drive since she still has the “good” license, but my mom is uncomfortable driving so my dad continues to drive and they have made a story about her leg getting caught in the door if they get stopped.

The small things we have done to help have been quickly undone. We have gotten them to give up the keys only to recant that choice hours later. We have been sensitive to let them have control over the choices. Whether they are unwilling or unable to accept the recommendations and help we don’t know, but we have decided now is the time to take the keys and hide the cars.

I really don’t like having to force this and scared of the shrift it’s going to cause for all of us emotionally. The fact that my dad is driving unlicensed pushed us to enforce this change. We want to take the cars before something happens and someone gets hurts and/or my parents find themselves in legal and financial trouble. My brothers are heading to town to get the keys and help them make this transition. We are expecting a fight.

Any suggestions welcome on how to have that conversation and make it stick without too much blood on the plow? Inquired.

Here are some links to what happened next:

Dad is Notified is License Was Suspended July 2, 2012

It’s Time to Take the Car Keys July 6, 2012

Opeation Safety Net July 8, 2012


11 thoughts on “It’s Time to Take the Keys

  1. One suggestion is to find alternate transportation for them. If there is a local senior bus to take them shopping or to the doctor, get them signed up. Call the county aging office for names of transportation companies. Maybe the bus system has a Dart programs that they are eligible for. Some places have EZ Ride with lower fees than a cab. Check out all alternatives so they can do the things they want to do without using a car. These sources helped my mother a lot.

    1. Thank you – we are working on determining all the options and trying to assess which ones they will be able to remember to use. The earlier it is part of their daily routine the better — I hope to find other options, and regularly use them, long before I need them. It’s hard not to see yourself in what is happening. I appreciate the recommendations.

      1. You’re welcome. I worked with mom for several years to do this as she gave up driving when we were kids. I wanted her to be able to get to her medical appointments when we got dad to stop driving. Somehow she always had more medical appointments, and dad had his dementia much longer so she went with him to his doctor as well.

  2. It is hard to lose the affection of parents, or have them angry with you (as my Mom was when I insisted Dad was NOT her caregiver, but that she needed one). It is worse if either of them are hurt — or someone else is — because they should not be driving. Someday a court is going to find adult children liable for tacit acceptance of driving when dementia is known. Frankly, it may be sooner, rather than later. Bury the keys and sell or store the car.
    Bert Cave, Support For Home In-Home Care

  3. Kay, this may seem unlikely, but be sure your parents do not rent a car once theirs are removed. My 85 year old Dad, though not suffering from dementia, took it upon himself to have Enterprise deliver a car to his home just 2 weeks after major heart surgery. My brother was ‘holding’ his car until he had medical clearance to drive, but Dad was impatient and said he didn’t want to ‘bother’ us kids, so he didn’t mention it. I am continually surprised by the ingenuity (and sadly, lack of judgement) our parents can demonstrate in an effort be independent at any cost. I don’t want to read that your Dad used your Mom’s license to something similar, with potentially disastrous consequences. Of course, once all the license issues are resolved, this won’t be a possibility.

    1. Thank you. I tried that as well as asking if they trusted me. It was always dismissed under the belief that it wasn’t my place to worry about them.

      Oh, the things I will do differently!

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