Driving, Dementia, and the Right to Drive

dementiasherpaAs the adult child who watched the dings accumulate on my parent’s car, and then as they continued to drive after their licenses were revoked, this topic still makes my tummy and heart ache.

However, as a Daily Money Manager, I’m now having these discussions with my clients who have hired me to help with the daily finances and bill pay usually because of health issues, and also hearing them lament over their children’s suggestion they give up the car keys.

This week, a client diagnosed with Parkinson’s and that by self-admission is having issues finding words and managing bills is very angry at her children who are suggesting she stop driving. When I asked her what her neurologist said when she asked about driving and safety, she said the rules tell him he has to write a note to rescind her license only if she is passing out. God Bless America. We have made driving a right you receive, not a right you earn and must continually qualify for.

I shared with my client that her adult children are worried for her safety, while she is fighting for her independence. I gave her some examples about how driving can be challenging because she will have to make split second decisions when she’s behind the wheel of her car.

As we discussed the topic a little deeper, she said she was going to voluntarily give up the car keys, but is now so mad that her kids are demanding she give them up, she is fighting to keep driving. My bent toward logic made me talk that through with her a little, but right now, she’s wants understanding and is devastated at the losses she is facing.

I left hoping I could wave a wand and make this easier for everyone. I can now clearly see how this topic is so difficult for every family.

I recently was introduced to Christy Turner, The Dementia Sherpa. She offers a host of great suggestions on how to better  communicate with your loved ones diagnosed with dementia, including some tips on how and when to navigate the issue with driving. Dementia just stinks. Recommended. 

Driving is a right, and I think that is wrong.

Unless we sue for guardianship, there is really nothing we can do to help my parents right now … unless they ask and we do it in the moment of the asking.

My parents have had an apartment in a retirement community for ten years. They were aware of the possibility that they would have issues later in life. However, it’s “independent living” and now I understand that even the retirement community would have to call Adult Protective Services if my parents start getting into more and more trouble and aren’t making good choices.

Then again, even Adult Protective Services can’t make them accept help either. Is America’s system of freedom balanced to meet the needs of its aging citizens?

I hope that now that their behavior and confusion are beyond their ability to hide from the outside world, they will listen to the help that is available from the other options in their community.

While this is a great county, I wonder if we are handling this “freedom” thing right. I’m perplexed why there aren’t more measures put into place to make driving a privilege at all ages. A privilege you earn.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 1 in 8 adults over 65 years of age are moderately demented (at 85 it’s HALF). Given those statistics, shouldn’t the DMV consider requiring more stringent measures to renew a driver’s license?

Both my parents’ licenses were renewed within the past year. They were savvy enough to have them done before they turned 80. When you are 80 you simply have to pass a vision test. Appalled.