Boy, this is a tricky one. Driving is something that for most people represents freedom and independence at some very basic and fundamental level. I mean, don’t you remember when you first got your license?? You thought you had arrived! You no longer needed Mom to take you everywhere; what a step!
And then through our lives it is something that most of us just take for granted. If I need or want to go somewhere I just get in my car and go. Off to see friends; going to the grocery store; keeping an appointment with the doctor. Simple. Done.
But how will it feel to us after a lifetime of freedom to have somebody tell us that we can no longer have that freedom?? The loss of independence is huge and has a significant effect on the lives of seniors. Not only in their abilities to carry out the activities of daily life, but also in their mental well being.
One always hopes that their parent will gladly hang up the keys before it becomes a problem, but once there is a safety issue to be considered, it becomes a family issue. Whether it is progressive signs of dementia or other general deteriorations in health and ability (vision, hearing, reflexes, and strength), the safety of your parent and the safety of others on the road is paramount.
I had this very difficult conversation with my own father who not only is suffering from dementia, but also has shown significant right sided weakness in his leg and arm. I choose to talk with him because I knew that his driving had become a safety issue for him, my mother and others on the road. But this was only the first line of attack because though he listened to all that I had to say, and thanked me for my concern, he continued to drive.
My next step was to send a letter to his physician. I told that doctor that while I understood that he could not talk to me about my father’s medical condition, I felt it was important for him to know my concerns. I explained my concerns in some detail, told him that I had discussed my concerns with my father (which he had chosen to disregard) and requested his assistance in helping to get my father off of the road.
At the very next visit, the physician told my father that he should not be driving any longer. He explained to my father that if there were an accident, due to his debilities, he and my mother could be held financially liable for that accident.
I never heard from the physician, and don’t expect to, but I will always appreciate his help and support in treating my father and in turn, helping my mother.
Whether it is talking to your parent honestly, asking for help from their physician or contacting the DMV to see what other avenues are available to evaluate and monitor senior drivers in your state, don’t let the driving issue linger. I knew I would never forgive myself for letting it go if somebody was injured or killed by my father (and truly, he would never have forgiven himself).
I won’t lie; the loss of independence has affected my father. He has returned to having to depend on somebody else to take him where he wants to go. I believe that has contributed to an already apparent depression (which is something else his physician is addressing). But, I feel relieved in knowing that the safety issue, my father on the road, has been resolved.
It has also affected my mother; in some ways positively and in other ways, not so much. She now is the lone driver in the family and has to take my father to all of his appointments and activities which can be a burden. But she also has the peace of mind of knowing that Dad is not out there driving around with the potential to hurt himself or others.
Boy, this is a tricky one!!! Get the support that you need if you know it’s time…..and if you are wondering if it’s time, it was probably time awhile ago…….
On the journey with you…….Kathy