Strokes, Free Will, and Frustration For All

I am working for a gentleman who had a stroke. He is challenging every tool I have as well as frustrating his family who is very concerned for his safety and fiscal well-being. It’s hard to help someone that can’t recognize they need the help. While he saves up the mail and is happy to have us manage his bills and medical claims, he is taking cash out of his ATM regularly and has no recollection of where his cash went.

He left the rehab facility after his stroke and returned home where all daily living rules have changed. His habit of eating out could no longer be met. The doctor told him he should not drive, yet he is driving all over. His friend is bringing in meals for the two of them and now he is spending way beyond his means but has no awareness of money management.

I walked into this account while he was in rehab to find he was already $70,000 in debt and no longer had any credit on either of his cards.

The family members are beyond frustrated. I fully understand. You try to help and then your loved ones undo all the help you layered in not recognizing or appreciated the help. Then they usually get mad at you for butting into their lives.

A caregiver is coming in daily to help, but “Mike” keeps getting in his car and driving around. He doesn’t understand the need for social/physical distancing. He also doesn’t believe that he needs to stop driving. The doctor told him he had to go to the DMV to get assessed and put in a request to suspend his license. He still has a license with a valid date in his wallet and is continuing to drive. That is the biggest challenge – what are some options to stop the unlicensed driving?

When my parents were driving on suspended licenses, I quickly ensured that we first followed the need that caused the driving. Do they need groceries? Do they need to get to a medical appointment and aren’t used to calling cabs?

Once we knew those basic needs were met and this was more about control and freedom than need:

  1. I made sure they had umbrella insurance. If they were in an accident, my guess is that their auto insurance would not cover them since they were driving on suspended licenses.
  2. I calmly conveyed the possible consequences that they could harm themselves or others (they poo-pooed this idea); that their insurance didn’t cover uninsured drivers and an accident could consume their savings (they pulled out a valid license … they had torn up the notes from DMV suspending their licenses and requiring they turn in the driver’s licenses); that they could be taken to jail.
  3. We unplugged the starter (a neighbor helped to reconnect it after they told them what their horrible children were doing to them).
  4. My brothers came into town to help once things got REALLY bad and hid their cars. This is the one that finally worked.

Some other suggestions from other care managers include:

  • Offer to schedule defensive driving lessons. There are specialists that work with individuals who have lost their license and help coach positive skills behind the wheel.
  • Call the local police and see if they will visit the driver and offer a friendly warning. One family that did this put a boot on the car following the visit from the police.

The balance of free will and safety with love and family dynamics can make all of this so frustrating. I hope some of those suggested might help you. Experienced.

5 thoughts on “Strokes, Free Will, and Frustration For All

  1. This is a tough conversation. I imagine being in Mike’s position. It’s a bit like knowing you can’t have sweets when the doctor tells you that you have borderline diabetes. The first thing you want it donuts. Unless Mike can be convinced of making the choice it’s going to be hard. God bless your concern and efforts.

      1. Remembering how getting the car away from my wonderful grandmother I would just suggest 1 Corinthians 13:7 Live bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

        The trick was to keep the relationship alive that was so precious for a lifetime as well as guarding her safety and the safety of others. My uncle finally got the keys by offering to bring the vehicle in for new brakes and it never returned. ( She was blind in one eye by that point). It still was difficult. Blessings as God helps you find your way.

  2. Your respect for free will is admirable, however when a person can harm others there is no free will to negotiate. When a person is not safe to drive it is the duty of the family/caregiver to stop it immediately. I was torn about taking my father’s license until I thought about the guilt that would haunt ME if he were to hurt or kill a person by driving. It was my obligation to society to ensure that the person in my care was not a danger to others, even though his doctor was not willing to help. I understand that it is difficult in both decision and action, but it’s imperative to act quickly. It is the responsibility of the competent caregiver to protect the person in their charge and especially to protect others by removing all means to cause harm. Would you not immediately remove loaded guns from a person’s possession who was found incompetent? (Strong 2nd Amendment Supporter here so it has zero to do with my personal beliefs about freedom and everything to do with common sense and safety.) It’s the same principle. Driving a vehicle can have the same destructive and deadly consequences as a person who can access and use a gun. Different method, potentially same outcome. Physically remove the license, get rid of the cars (my dad was found hot wiring one so yeah, take them away and lock up your car and keys), and ensure the blame is put on doctors and the DMV. White lies are necessary to preserve relationships when caring for those with dementia. I’d rather tell my father white lies all day than attend the funeral of someone he killed because I did not take action.

    1. While my family agreed we needed to stop our parents from driving and went to great lengths to make it happen, it isn’t as easy as it should be. In your case, your Dad did not fight back. I didn’t mention that the family tried to step in and a lawsuit that resulted cost tens of thousands in legal fees. They did take the keys and he paid a locksmith to make new ones. What if there is no family? Who takes the keys away? Our laws protect our right to make bad choices. I wish there was a perfect way to handle and try not to judge families when they walk away in pure frustration. Thank you for writing.

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