Is Driving a Battle Worth Having? YES!

The choices you are faced with when you are stepping in to help are many and varied. One adult child was telling me how she just got her dad to move into an independent living community and dad was still driving. She shared that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s so they wanted to get him somewhere and he seemed to be doing pretty well. I understand the hope to at least get them into a place that is more attuned to help, and that offers other levels of care when needed.

She also mentioned that she worried about him continuing to drive. However, most of us might just accept the move as a win and move on. I know, I was in that situation. For this daughter, just getting him into the community was a victory. The next issue was going to be the driving.

You would hope that the doctor that diagnosed “Alzheimer’s” would help, but in many cases, they don’t discuss how it might impact things like driving and managing the finances.

The daughter was happy that he agreed to move out of his home and into the Life Care Community. When should she bring up the issue of driving?

According to a the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the youngest and oldest drivers have much higher rates of highway crashes and deaths than any other age group, according to 2008 government mileage data, the latest available. Drivers ages 16 and 17 are involved in more crashes, and fatality rates rise steeply for those older than 65, with drivers older than 80 being the most vulnerable.

Consumer Reports Dangerous Drivers 10-12

I am not sure if I’m more worried about the issue of causing a fatality, or the risk of losing all of your life savings should an older adult be sued or charged with a crime. In our litigious society, I don’t think it will be long before someone will prove that an individual diagnosed with “Alzheimer’s” or even “cognitive impairment” was reckless by making the choice to drive after a medical diagnosis.

Do you wait for the accident to happen?
As I have reiterated on this blog, when their is cognitive impairment, you often find that you have to wait for a failure. It actually has a medical term. Anosognosia is when someone is unaware of their own mental health condition or that they can’t perceive their condition accurately.  Anosognosia affects up to 81% of people with Alzheimer’s and some studies show up to 77% of patients suffer anosognosia after a stroke. So can your loved one accurately assess their driving ability? How many of us without a diagnosis over-rate some of our abilities?

Some rehab centers offer assessments, but it’s not so easy to find and in reality, who wants to go pay for a test to learn they might not be safe on the road anymore?

As the adult child, my siblings and I discussed it with our parent’s before the doctor submitted the paperwork to revoke their licenses. We were seeing a lot of dents and dings on the car that were multiplying at an alarming rate before this happened. In the end, we had to hide the cars when they continued to drive after their driving privileges were suspended by the state. I had also retrieved them a few times when they got lost driving to familiar locations. To read more about how we managed through this stage, you can read my posts from back in 2012 called Operation Safety Net.

The car keys represent freedom and independence. Most people don’t want to let that go. However, it’s a battle that is worth fighting for everyone’s safety. Believed. 


  1. Check out your local community to see if you have a Village that can provide a ride.
  2. Contact your county Agency for Aging that can refer you to discounted coupon packages or other discounted local ride services.
  3. Contact a home care agency to set up permanent rides to the grocery, mall, or drugstore.
  4. Check with neighbors or church members who might be interested and available to help out.

5 thoughts on “Is Driving a Battle Worth Having? YES!

  1. This is the toughest issue to handle with a cognitively impaired parent! People make excuses to get out of this responsibility because no one wants to give up this independence. But honestly, if you won’t let your own child ride in a car with your parent because you know the danger, then you shouldn’t let that parent out on the road where they might injure someone else’s precious family member, it’s that simple and that hard!

    1. Agree! We wouldn’t let our kids ride with nana and pop-pop years before the licenses were revoked. It takes to long for the system to help since we most people (including our government) view driving as a right, not a privilege you should have to earn, and continue to earn. I hope one day it won’t be so hard — half of the population doesn’t have any adult children.

  2. This happened with my father. He would forget the purpose of his drive. He would also get lost in familiar neighborhoods. Also, he couldn’t follow maps or very specific written directions (i.e. drive 1.2 miles on Main St. then turn right on Elm Ave. and continue for 2.2 miles, etc.). There were also dents on the cars that he couldn’t remember or explain. Despite all this, I was willing to compromise with him. There were a few place within 2 miles of his house that he seemed to recall. I would allow him to drive to these locations if he would take a taxi everywhere else. He had more than enough money to take taxis (I was handling his finances by this point). He flatly refused the compromise & insisted he didn’t have a problem. I literally had nightmares that he would kill someone with his car. You frequently read about some senior citizen that confused reverse & drive or the brake & accelerator pedals and kills someone (in some case multiple people).

    By this point, I was at war with my father. He was going to go into an assisted living facility & give up his driver’s license & car. I was willing to bankrupt him & myself to achieve this. I certainly had my father’s best interest at heart but by this point, resentment & frustration were major drivers in my actions. I had maintained communications with his primary physician. I had a retained an attorney who specialized in elder law. My attorney was prepared to send a carefully worded letter to my father’s physician outlining my concerns that would have been very damaging to her in the case of a malpractice suit arising from injuries/death resulting from his driving.

    I instructed my attorney to hold off on the letter until I spoke with the doctor on the phone and she was very receptive to my concerns. She said she would order a comprehensive memory test for my father. Based on the results of the test, she would revoke my father’s driver’s license on medical grounds. If he refused to take the test, she would revoke his license. We had this set up (without my father’s knowledge) for his next regularly scheduled appointment. However, my father had a heart attack about 2 weeks before the appointment and never made the appointment. 5 days in the hospital followed by 4 days in hospice before he died.

    My father would have been completely blindsided. Memory test (presumably failed), followed by revoked license. Almost immediately, my attorney would have filed a petition for guardianship with the courts. In the meantime, I would have taken his car and drove it back to my place (I live about 4 hours away). I even found an assisted living facility and put down a deposit. The minute the court granted me guardianship, I would have gone to my father’s house with staff from the assisted living facility and forced him to go into the facility. That sounds harsh but my father was not cooperating with me, not acknowledging his problem nor willing to compromise. It was a tough choice but about 6 weeks before he died, I decided the days of my father making his own decisions had come to an end and immediately set out to effectuate that. He was a danger to himself and others as well as susceptible to fraud and elder abuse.

    1. I totally understand. What I learned after all this had happened to my family was that often, the disease makes it impossible for the brain to recognize these issues. Your dad had no idea how unsafe his behavior was. We do the best we can with the information we have at the time we need to make choices. Your father was lucky you cared so much.

      1. I partially agree with you but I think my father was desperate to retain his independence and was not above lying. I caught him in many lies. After his death, I found document unrelated to his dementia which were shocking to me. I found out my father and mother had been keeping secrets from me and actively lying to me since my earliest memories. It called into question his later behavior.

        I have never regretted my actions w.r.t. attempting to put him into assisted living & stopping him from driving. I do feel some guilt for arguments and acrimonious words exchanged between us. One day, he said “You have been speaking horribly and disrespectfully to me for several weeks now.” In actually, it had been several months but the bigger point was that he recalled these conversations. It seemed his short-term memory was shot so I had no compunction about laying into him figuring he wouldn’t remember it anyway. Indeed, initially I apologized to him but he couldn’t remember the incidents so I stopped apologizing. To be honest, I stopped thinking about him as my father. In fact, he was barely human in my eyes. I didn’t believe a word that came out of his mouth. His mind was barely functioning so he needed to be protected from himself & others. His desires played no role in my decision making. Conversations with him were pointless so they needed to be concluded as quickly as possible. I gave zero consideration to his happiness because 1) I was worried about his health & safety and 2) I assumed my proposed course of action was an improvement over the status quo so his happiness would follow. I had a really short temper with my father at the time of his death. I didn’t want to talk to him because 1) I thought he was lying, 2) I wasn’t going to take anything he said into consideration regarding his living arrangements, driving status or my application for guardianship and 3) it only reminded me of how far his mind had been ravaged by the disease.

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