Give me your car keys

My dad turns to me and says “Give me your car keys.” I immediately feel a buzz in my brain that something is amiss, but can’t place it until my daughter barks “Mom” from the back seat. It’s not lilting or sweet but more of the voice of a person on the verge of a panic attack.

I asked my dad to drive with me to the nearest military base to help me get gas for my car. The power is out in much of area and all of the gas stations are closed. I ask him if he could take me on the military base to see if we could get gas there.  We need someone with a military ID to buy gas on base.

It has been more than two years since I’ve had my parents drive my children anywhere. I always have the perfect thing to say the day after I’m in a situation and need to quickly nip this request politely. I don’t want to embarrass him in front of his grandchildren.

Remarkably, I brush off his request and quickly slide into the driver’s seat before he got the keys from my hand. I didn’t realize how aware my kids are of what’s going on with my parents. My nine-year-old daughter has apparently gotten the gene from my husband to think on her feet.  The moment my dad asked, she knew he should not be driving and knows to alert me.

I’m amazed when I consider all those around me that are helping, asking, supporting, and listening to me as I face the reality that my parents are drifting away day-by-day.   Comforted.


Your Dad’s License Has Been Revoked

I knew the form to revoke my parents licenses was submitted by Dr. J. We had no idea when the letter would be sent to my parents. Apparently it arrived today. My mom calls and tells me the news. “Just Dad?” is the first thing out of my mouth.

Awesome to know that it happened within 2 weeks of being submitted, however where is the letter for my mom?  Her diagnosis was moderate to severe dementia.

My mom states they are going to the doctor to get him retested. I sweat a bit wondering if there may be a doctor somewhere, who would refute the medical diagnosis of the first 3 doctors that would put him back on the road.

I haven’t seen the letter but they are under the impression that my dad is quickly losing his driving privileges. I have no idea how far and defiant my parents are going to get on this. Frightened.

Step One: Spend the Time to Explain

My sister and I were very impressed by the doctor who sat my parents down and spent over an hour with them trying to explain why she is so concerned for their safety.

Our visit begins with my mom, dad and sister huddled into one exam room. I’m not really sure what is going to happen. While I was parking the car, my sister and mom went to the appointment. My dad waited for me at the hospital entrance and we arrived late. When we arrive, the care manager is briefing my sister. We haven’t had a chance to talk so this is really the beginning of the appointment for me and I have no idea what’s going to happen.

The medical technician comes in and starts doing a general assessment of my mom. Do you have any medical conditions? My mother responds, “No. I haven’t even had a cold in more than 20 years.” I swore I would keep my mouth shut but wonder if this guy really wants her medical history. At one point my sister shares that my mom had a stroke. My mom starts to derail the assessment by wondering what the symptoms of a stroke would be. My dad quickly jumps in and asks my mom just to answer the questions.

When we get to my dad, we have a similar issue. My dad reports no issues, yet he broke a hip two years ago and has a pin in his leg, and also takes a host of medicine for some other minor issues. I’m still wondering if this is even important. They have access to all their medical records.

It takes the medical technician an extraordinary amount of time to get through the questions. At one point, I had to turn my head because I started to laugh. I thought I might be in an Abbott & Costello movie.

The technician leaves. We can hear him talking in the hallway and within a few minutes the doctor arrives. She’s got a calm demeanor and a warm smile.

She introduces herself to my parents and reminds them how she met them. She starts by sharing that she is a woman of faith. She tells the story of meeting them in the Emergency Room at a hospital across town on a Thursday. They were lost and confused. The following day, at a different hospital, my parents show up again in the ward where she was assigned. Again they were confused. She couldn’t believe that they showed up in her care two days in a row in two different hospitals. She tells them she is very concerned for their safety and is going to recommend that the DMV rescind their licenses.

My mom applies a variety of methods to divert the conversation.

“All my children aren’t here; I won’t have this discussion until all of my children are here.” The doctor tells her, “Okay, let’s meet on Monday and we can set up a call to get them on the phone.”

“What if there is an emergency?” “There is a service, you know the button device you can wear, that gives you the ability to call for help from anywhere” replies the doctor.

“It should be our decision, not our children’s, that if we drive or not.” The doctor tells her that we have nothing to do with this. This is her recommendation.

The care manager has been taking notes to summarize what was discussed so my parents can sign it. At one point, the doctor reads the summary and explains each point. My dad signs the form. My mom refuses to sign and the arguments begin anew.

The doctor reminds her that they have the ability to decide how they want to live and how they will manage to do the things they want without driving. She tells them she’s looking forward to hearing their plans when they meet again in two weeks.

We finished the meeting. My dad hands my sister his car keys and starts to wonder where he parked his car. We remind them I drove. The ride home is quiet, but thankfully short. I am not sure what we will find when tomorrow comes. Witnessed.