I have been writing about my family’s struggle in helping my two parents with moderate dementia for more than a year. While my parents had an apartment in a retirement community, they kept their town house and divided their time between the two homes. They were unwilling or unable to make the move and as a result, they were always about two steps behind being in the place they should have been for their own happiness, health and safety.
While I know my parent’s relished the independence, they really struggled to keep up with two homes. They were starting to become targets of elder-care abuse, and we had several instances where we had to intervene on their behalf.
In looking back, there were three keys to our success in finally getting my parents into the level of care they needed. Today I will address the first item: Driving.
For more than two years, I would not allow my parents to drive my children. Their cars continued to get a little more battered and scratched. They kept telling us they would be moving full-time into the retirement community … but each new milestone came and went and they failed to move. We realized the movement between homes became my parents’ only real activity.
For the past two years, my siblings and I had face-to-face conversations with our parents requesting they consider moving full-time and give up the driving. They rebuffed our suggestions.
Finally, almost 9 months ago, they showed up in two different hospital emergency rooms in two days that was staffed by the same doctor. She was so alarmed at my parent’s confusion she championed the cause to have their licenses revoked and wrote to the DMV. We had previously asked their doctor (who diagnosed the dementia) if this was possible, and he was not aware he had this capability.
If you are in this situation, call your state DMV office to request the forms and under what circumstances will a license be revoked. Our parent’s licenses were revoked in less than two weeks of the doctor’s form submission. Surprised.
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I have written the past about my situation about my parents. I am now here in Seattle from my home taking care of parents (more like buying groceries and cooking and trying to keep them from screaming at each other). They are deterioating quickly (my father has not bathed or changed his clothes in months – my mother weighs 85lbs and doesn’t even know she is in her own home or believes there are other people there eating food, etc. I have tried to the Wash State Adult Protection Services continue their case (they were interviewed in January, 2012.
In the mean time they no longer pay their bills – I was going to approach their bank and ask for a form to put me on their bank account.
But in response to your current blog – your parents drivers licenses being revoked – my father’s license is revoked but he continues to drive. The own their own home and cars – I have no legal rights to do anything.
I’m feeling hopeless.
You are in a difficult place — however — some suggestions:
1) Make your dad’s car disappear. If he hits someone, they will loose everything — he no longer has insurance! We went to the local police to let them know our parents had dementia, lost their licenses and we were hiding the cars. We were concerned they would report the car as stolen. Do you have any medical diagnosis in regard to your parent’s dementia? LAST RESORT: call the police on him when he leaves and report the car as stolen — they will pull him over, find he has no license and possibly impound the car.
2) Typically, as I understand, if your parents meet the APS concern threshold (which is very high) they will suggest you pursue conservatorship / guardianship. I would first try to hire an Estate Lawyer to get a durable power-of-attorney (POA) and as back up, get the form from the bank that gives adds you to your parents account. My parents were happy to go in with me and just add me to their bank account. You will need the POA for many other situations so I recommend you try getting one done — but hire a good ESTATE lawyer who ONLY deals with these issues. You will want to do this before your parent’s are too cognitively impaired or your only option to take over for them is the conservator route — that will add a lot of extra reporting if you have to fall back on that. Try everything else first is my suggestion.
My parents were contentious with me when I pointed out their lapses and issues. When I just let it go, and filled in where I could, they were much more compliant and willing to let me pay bills. I had to change before my parents would really let them help them. Please let me know if any of these options might work. It takes time. You are a loving daughter and they need your help. It’s tough. I know your pain and am sorry to hear how difficult it is for you.
I saw many doctors over the past year with my parents to get help, advice as well as a diagnosis that would help me make sure I knew how to proceed and what might be coming.
Thank you for your response. As far as removing the cars I will need the Power of Attorney. The cars are in the garage accessed by a garage door opener. (This is where he sits and watches TV all day long.) Also now the front door locks do not work. My father is probably aware that some sort of action will be coming – I have no way into the house accept knocking on the garage door and he will then open it. Wow!!
My mother’s dementia is well documented – I was with her last month at her doctor’s appointment. She got a 2 out 10 on the dementia test. She is also my father’s doctor and she will attest to brain damage that resulted as from my father’s heart failure a year and half ago (down w/o oxygen for over 12 minutes) how he survived is a miracle but he is quickly deterioting mentally and physically.
I will pursue the estate lawyer – I hope it’s not a great expense. I am on paid leave from the Dept of Defense until May and then will have to go LWOP. I must still support myself and husband and pay my own bills. I am 11 months from retirement.
Again, thank you for your advise.
Hi Vickie – Tough … two follow ups. One, you should be able to get a durable power-of-attorney from an Estate Lawyer from $200-$250 (those are metro DC prices so maybe you can find them cheaper). Contact the local AARP office — they have a program where lawyers agree to perform their services for reduced rates.
You don’t need the power-of-attorney to hide the cars — especially if he is driving. I know it feels disrespectful, I struggled with “turning in my dad” — the hospital social worker is the one who recommended I call the police on my dad if he’s driving. If he get’s in an accident, his insurance won’t help since he no longer has a valid license. I would visit the local police and ask them if they have a recommendation … and at least report that you know your dad is driving without a valid license. Your parent’s could lose all their assets if someone get’s hurt.
We ended up asking neighbors, friends, doctors and the local police for help. Sadly, your parent’s don’t recognize how much they have changed. My mom fought the changes and was mean — after the transition, she is happy. I think the stress of managing was greater than she could recognize.
Best wishes to you. Write anytime if you have a question or just need some encouragement! You are being a loving daughter — your parent’s just might not be able to recognize that right now.