Operation Safety Net: Day 2

For the past year, my siblings and I have faced the reality that my parents’ increasing dementias are problematic, burdensome, troubling and sad. They are unable to handle their lives and unable to recognize their inability to manage safety.

My brothers came to town and have collected the car keys, disabled their cars and moved them into their retirement community full- time. My mother is a very strong-willed individual and after getting past her first few rebuttals, they now recognize the emotional toll this is taking on my parents. They were unprepared for the obvious sense of damaged pride.

Because of the dementia and severe short-term memory loss, my brother made reminder signs and taped them inside their doors with reminders and his phone number. My mom has been very specific that she did not want anyone to see these signs. When he tried to put these same signs in the retirement community she was visibly upset and he moved them to the bedroom.

My mom has created a “cover story” of why they would be spending more time at the retirement community and not in their town home. This is a typical “m.o.” she used with us often. When my dad lost his license, she forgot she told me about the letter from the DMV. She then wrote a letter to each of us saying the reason he lost his license was because my dad “got a terrible speeding ticket.”

She visited the neighbors at the town home community and told them while her sons were in town, they were taking advantage by having them move their things to the retirement community. My brothers recognize my mom is embarrassed and hurt that their way of life is coming to an end. We have been sad to watch as our parents have been unable to find any way to fill their time beyond driving between their two homes. We knew this day was coming and we thought they did too.

However, as my brothers progress through the transition, it’s obvious my parents never thought this day would really come. They have no recollection or recognition of the dozens of discussions with doctors as well as us children about their life becoming very unsafe.

My mom has told us for more than 30 years that she would never do to us what her mother did to her. My grandmother came to live with us and my mom then moved her to a retirement community. That progression of events feels like a piece a cake to me now.

My parents set milestones for moving into the retirement community full time and each one came and went. They didn’t remember how many times they were getting lost, or how often 911 was called or the number of other issues they faced. They were ready to ignore the loss of their licenses and continue their lifestyle unchanged to keep this sense – and public appearance — of independence.

It’s clear my mom is truly stunned and wounded. Granted, my parents did a magnificent job at holding each other up and maintaining their independent life for several years. We noticed a significant difference in my mom’s ability to manage after she had her stroke three years ago. My mom would admit to memory issues and problems both she and my dad were having, but would quickly recant or deny them if you brought them up. My dad is just silent and compliant now.

We believed my parents would be relieved when we forced this action. The last year has been filled with many phone calls and letters from my mother that felt like calls for help to all of us. However, we think it’s just us children who are finally relieved. Tempered.

T Minus 60: Operation Safety Net

My brothers arrive in town and we talk through how they are going to deliver the news to my parents.  We expected both parents have received their license revocation notices, but unfortunately, we only have confirmation that my dad lost his license.

My mom just stopped driving on her own within the past year. My dad was encouraging her to get behind the wheel but she has resisted doing more than driving around the parking lot. This means my dad is driving without a license and uninsured.

We are sitting around the dining room table talking through a variety of issues. The goal of this trip is to implement the changes my parents have failed to make to ensure their safety and well-being. My brothers are here to help my parents move to the retirement community and retire their cars.

Over the past year, we have gone with my parents to see a psychologist and two internists to review their mental and physical health. All three made the same recommendations to simplify their lives by living in one place and eliminating driving.

My parents kept resisting these recommendations and have forced us to act in their best interest. They believed that they had set up their lives so we would not have to do to them what they had to do to their parents. Unfortunately, we were unable to convince them to follow through on their plans. It has taken a doctor’s recommendation to the DMV to revoke the driving licenses to give us the foundation for implementing these changes for them. Otherwise, they would continue to drive which further illustrates to us their diminished cognitive states.

We start running through the checklist and our conversation gets so lively that my daughter walks in and asks us to stop fighting. I turn to her and tell her we are not fighting, just having a passionate discussion. We were raised with family dinners where we would discuss and debate many topics. Thankfully, our parents gave us the tools to discuss and collaborate to best serve them.

When my brothers leave to drive to my parents’ house, we were all in agreement. We can have these discussions because we trust and love each other very much. I hope she and my son develop the same relationship.

We are very lucky.  I’m thankful my brothers are here to do this and we have not allowed this to come between us. United.

It’s Time to Take the Keys

My parents have both been diagnosed with dementia to varying degrees, and the medical team submitted a form to the DMV to rescind their licenses. While my mom has moderate to severe dementia, my dad (with a moderate dementia diagnosis) has been the driver. He is the only one whose license was revoked. We don’t know what happened to the request for my mom.

For several months we have discussed taking this step, but have disagreed as siblings. After three medical recommendations to my parents to stop driving, having my dad’s license revoked and he continues to drive, we could easily all agree it was time to act.

My mom has not really driven for several years. She would sometimes drive a few blocks to her bridge game, but when that moved, she stopped going. My dad has been encouraging her to drive since she still has the “good” license, but my mom is uncomfortable driving so my dad continues to drive and they have made a story about her leg getting caught in the door if they get stopped.

The small things we have done to help have been quickly undone. We have gotten them to give up the keys only to recant that choice hours later. We have been sensitive to let them have control over the choices. Whether they are unwilling or unable to accept the recommendations and help we don’t know, but we have decided now is the time to take the keys and hide the cars.

I really don’t like having to force this and scared of the shrift it’s going to cause for all of us emotionally. The fact that my dad is driving unlicensed pushed us to enforce this change. We want to take the cars before something happens and someone gets hurts and/or my parents find themselves in legal and financial trouble. My brothers are heading to town to get the keys and help them make this transition. We are expecting a fight.

Any suggestions welcome on how to have that conversation and make it stick without too much blood on the plow? Inquired.

Here are some links to what happened next:

Dad is Notified is License Was Suspended July 2, 2012

It’s Time to Take the Car Keys July 6, 2012

Opeation Safety Net July 8, 2012