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Elderly Parents Who Need to Stop Driving
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Elderly Parents Who Need to Stop Driving
Help! any ideas out there? My father in law is 87,
can barely walk, has fits of
coughing from emphesema, and is on medication.
At last weeks doctor visit, my husband drove him, and asked the doctor with his
dad in the conversation, Should he be driving? The doctor said to him,
''Abssoulutly not, and what if you hit a small child?'' Days later and guess
he is still driving.
this is so stressfull.
You or your doctor may contact the DMV and request a driving
retest (usually a phone interview is the first step).
If your father-in-law passed his last licensing exam
(written only) he can be re-examined by request of any
interested person, i.e., family member or MD.
Hope this helps.
When my demented 88 yr. old father, who lives in a distant
state, had an accident that flipped a van because he drove
through a red light and by some miracle a number of people
were not killed, the DMV mandated that his doctor
examine/test him to see if he should be driving. He
wouldn't listen to anyone else, but he stopped driving
during the testing period, but was still trying to keep his
license. Long story short, other events forced me to have
him put in a facility. Anyway, call the DMV or his doctor
and request that they require that they investigate whether
he should be licensed. You don't have to tell him you did
it. You may have to help find alternative transportation
First off, having been through this before, I can
sympathize. The problem is that driving is not about
transportation to an older person. It is about independence
and control. Hence, if you take it away, you are taking away
something very important to them. That being said, it is an
unfortunate reality that their being behind the wheel is
very dangerous. Having first tried and failed to appeal to
their sense of responsibility, you have to take it to the
next level: get the doctor to put in writing that they do
not feel that your father in law can safely drive and send
that letter to the DMV. The DMV will then revoke his
license. That in itself will not stop him from driving. Then
work with him on alternatives: set up a driving service,
offer to help get him where he needs to go, etc. If your
husband or someone else has power of attorney, use that to
sell the car. Be warned: this may not be easy nor painless.
Our father was compliant one day and then angry and
resentful the next. He actually went out and bought another
car after we sold the first. You guys have to be strong,
patient, understanding, but firm. You may have to repeat the
points and alternatives again and again. Good luck!
It may be stressful for you to take away the keys, but it is
going to be far more stressful if you don't. Talk to him
about the pros and cons of driving. Find out where he wants
to go, then develop a plan to help him get there. He needs
groceries, but what about more intangible needs? How is
going to see friends, get out in nature, buy clothes, etc?
Make a plan (quickly!); it may involve friends, neighbors,
relatives, taxi service, public transportation, etc. Then
take his keys away. He has probably been driving every day
for most of his life, it is no wonder that it is difficult
for him to give it up. He may also be very attached to his
home, but if it isn't in a good location given the current
circumstances, he may want to move. It is far more important
that you protect the public than protect his feelings. So
take the keys away! We took my father's keys away after he
got into a couple of small accidents. I wish we had done it
Per the California DMV website: Physicians are required by
law to report medical conditions or disorders that are
characterized by loss of consciousness or control, along
with other medical conditions that may affect your ability
to safely operate a motor vehicle. If the physician reports
to DMV, it will be taken out of the senior's hands. They
will be summoned for a reexamination by DMV and will have
the license revoked if they fail to pass. Hope this helps!
You need to have a conversation with him, and take his keys
away. That is what you have to do. It took about an hour to
get my Dad's keys, and he was distressed for a while and
STILL complains that it's hard to get around without driving
himself, but it's a lot of peace of mind for us. We were
respectfully persistent, logical, and relentless. Maybe you
can get tips from a social worker or the like on how to
direct the conversation, but we just kept harping on why it
was necessary. It helps if you can offer backup for getting
him places. Good luck!
Please don't delay
This has come up a few times on the BPN, and good advice has
already been offered below.
My mother-in-law's late partner drove long after he should
have turned over the keys -- partly because no one wanted to
make him that angry, and partly because they he lived in a
remote area here there are few alternatives. He finally
crumpled his front bumper and hood -- in a minor accident he
initially admitted fault for, then completely changed his
story -- and just never got behind the wheel again. Luckily
no one was hurt.
Good luck with this tough transition.
My parents live in the suburbs in another state. My
mother, 77, is in excellent health: takes a spinning class
6x a week, hearing, vision, etc. great. My father, 82 has
various health problems but presents as robust but
slowing, yet mentally as sharp as ever.
The problem is that he is, of course, 82, so his reflexes
are naturally not the same; his hearing isn't as great as
it used to be, and his eyesight as far as letters and
detail is pretty poor due to macular degeneration. Yet he
continues to drive. He gets around fine because he knows
the area ''like the back of his hand'' and his eyesight for
the larger, general landscape is fine.
Now, a few years ago I was with a friend who nearly died
when she was hit in the street by an 82-year-old woman who
had lived for 30 years a few blocks from where we stood.
This woman also knew the area like the back of her hand,
but she still plowed into my friend because she misjudged
how close she was to the car against which my friend was
I'm terrified this could happen with my dad and want to
ask him to stop driving. My mother and brother are afraid
to bring this up with my dad because he is outraged by the
suggestion that he might not be a competent driver, and
they can't handle his anger. My mother gets mad when I try
to even discuss it with her, because she doesn't want to
deal with his reaction. (I'm sure many people reading this
are familiar with this kind of dysfunction!) Yet that
should not outweigh the risk he is posing to himself and
I have always been the ''troublemaker'' in the family who
brings up the things no one wants to talk about. So how do
I pose this, when I will be generally viewed as a long-
distance busybody who can't even offer to drive him around
if he isn't allowed to drive himself.
Who has had this difficult conversation, and how was it
No easy answer, but the right thing to do
I went through this with my dad a few years before he died after I found
out 'accidentally' that he'd had several accidents he'd purposely not told
anyone about. When I asked him what had happened and how many
times, he was defensive and said it only happened when he was in an
unfamiliar place at night! He promised to stop driving at night, but there
was no way to ensure his safety or that of others. The rest of my family
was FURIOUS with me for pressing the issue and trying to engage their
support, so I appreciate your dilemma.
In my case, I loved my dad enough
-- caring both about his safety and that of those he might hit as well as the
potential consequences of an accident that could wipe him out financially -
- that I called his MD, who reported him to the DMV. In another situation, I
made an appointment with a social worker from the local Jewish Family
Services because of some concerns and he responded to her in
remarkable ways even though he was mad at me temporarily for bringing
her in. As it turned out, by the time the DMV wrote him to require he come
in for a vision screening and driving test, he was in a nursing home
recovering from heart surgery, realized his driving days were over, and
voluntarily relinquished his license.
I researched the transportation
options for elders in his area -- including buses, taxis that offered lower
cost rides for elders, a list of drivers for pay in his area, and volunteer
drivers from a local (non-proselytizing) church -- and had all those
resources available for him when he was better. Once he began to make
the transition, he was fine and even began to look forward to spending
time every week with some of his drivers.
You can see how much this
issue pushes everyone's buttons, whether it forces them to confront dad's
decline, adds pressure to their lives to step up, or raises unresolved
issues like dealing with his anger, so be as compassionate as you can
with them and yourself while pursuing the only responsible course of
action. You might find it helpful to talk with his MD, a rabbi/priest he is
close to, a social worker, or someone at the Local Area Aging agency for
guidance and support. This is a difficult passage, but better than most of
the alternatives. Good luck!
A fellow ''troublemaker'' who did the right thing
My mother went through the process your father is apparently
starting. We learned there is a way to anonymously request a
driver safety evaluation of a person who may be losing the
ability to drive safely. (I understand anonymity is
protected unless the subject driver takes an action in court
to get around it.) I filled out the DMV form
look for the link ''Request for Driver Reexamination (form DS
699)'')and a notice of examination was sent to my mother. My
mother believed it the examination was part of her regular
license renewal, and went in (with me and my wife) to be
examined. The examiner was very polite and considerate,
asked Mom a series of questions mostly having to do with
cognition, and then told her he must have her license. He
took it and told her she had to apply for a CA ID card,
which looks similar to a Drivers License. Her driving
privilege was revoked. Your father may have another
experience -- the examiner may concentrate more on vision
than mental capacity, but the system worked for us.
(Impaired vision that can be and is corrected may not keep
your father out of the driver seat:
My mother stopped driving after doing it for 70 years, all
the time knowing the area like the back of her hand. When
her license was revoked, we all felt much safer. It was more
of a hassle for us all to arrange for her transportation,
but that was easy compared with what it might have been if
she had hurt someone.
We (all the family) had worries about my father's driving,
as well. At first he wasn't receptive to talking about it
at all. I made it clear that I wasn't forcing him to do
anything, but that I wanted to have an honest discussion...
Then he at least started the dialog.
The point that won the day for my dad was bringing up the
news article about the 80s something guy that plowed into a
sidewalk full of people. I indicated that if he *ever* got
into an accident, even if it was not his fault, lawyers
would have a field day, referencing that and other similar
events, and he would be tarred with the same brush... the
downside is that he could be sued for his whole estate.
It didn't hurt that he crumpled the back corner of the
carport the very next day...
First off, my sympathies. We have been in the exact same
situation. We got our father to agree, sold the car, and
then he changed his mind and bought another one. The car is
a very powerful icon of freedom and independence and it is
not surrendered easily. We tried the rational route:
safety, confusion, reflexes, and depth perception (garage
walls caused many trips to the body shop) to no avail. One
day he would agree and one day he wouldn't. We tried doing
safe driving courses so that a third party would suggest not
driving. He refused. Finally, we got his doctor to issue a
letter suggesting that he not drive. We took that to the DMV
and had his license revoked. At about the same time we took
his keys and removed his vehicle. It is not a fun thing to
do, but it was the only way. We arranged cabs, handi-vans,
drivers, got him a bus pass and drove him a lot ourselves to
remove the stigma of inconvenience. Turns out, he didn't go
out that much to begin with. Good luck!
You haven't really given any evidence that your dad is not
a safe driver other than his age. The fact that another
elderly driver ran into your friend -- who was standing in the
street -- doesn't mean anything. A 20 year old driver, or a 40
year old -- could have done the same thing. (A good reason
not to stand in the street up against your car when
people are driving by.) Talk to his doctor if you really
think there is a problem, and get some hard evidence you can
use with him and your family.
We had this issue with my mother-in-law (in her case it
was the onset of dementia). We talked to her doctor
before her next visit and he not only told her she had to
stop driving, he said he would let the DMV know so her
license would not be renewable. Since your father has
macular degeneration, talk to his ophthalmologist, I'm
sure they are very used to having this conversation with
patients - and make sure there is someone else there to
drive him home from that appointment!
I had this conversation with my father and it was not easy,
but once I framed it that I was not only concerned about his
and my mother's safety, but the safety of others, and
pointed out how terrible he would feel if he ever
unintentionally hurt someone, he was able to see giving up
driving as the right, moral thing to do. It was a very hard
decision (what felt like giving up his autonomy, his
mobility), but he has now adjusted well. I would not have
this conversation long-distance. You need to be there to
deliver the message firmly but with love.
I should note that we had this conversation after he had a
serious car accident, on top of several years of observing
in-person increasingly unsafe driving practices. It is not
completely clear from your post whether you KNOW your father
is unfit to drive, or just suspect it. If the latter, the
first step might be simply convincing him to have his vision
re-tested at the DMV. If you want to be passive-agressive
about it, I think there might even be a way to anonymously
report potentially unsafe drivers to the DMV.
It's extremely difficult for people to emotionally deal
with the challenge of giving up driving, and most seniors
won't give up the keys until their health or a frightening
incident forces them to. However, there are options out
there for seniors, some of which are very low cost. The
ADA act of 1990 requires that any city that offers public
transportation also offer a system for those who are
perhaps unable to travel safely or comfortably on public
transportation. In some areas there are also volunteer
organizations who offer rides for free or very low cost.
Prior to pushing this issue with your father you might
want investigate options for him to get around w/o a car
independently. You could start by calling your local
transportation authority and asking for the person who
deals with senior transportation. You can also point out
that he will save a lot of money by giving up his car and
he can use that for alternative transportation. I noticed
that one person said that his/her father really doesn't go
out much--that's actually a negative thing from both a
physical and mental health perspective--his father will be
much healthier and happier if he is able to remain active.
So, in summary, come up with some good alternatives that
will allow your father to remain active and reasonably
independent even if he isn't driving anymore. Two good
resources: AAAfoundation.org and the Beverly Foundation.
This relates to your question but doesn't deal with it
directly. My grandmother has macular degeneration, lives
in another state, and was continuing to drive. I recently
took note of some really good advice in Dear Abby. It was
more focused on how to handle things after the car is
gone. Basically, this suggested that you sell the car.
Maybe you get $5,000. You then use that money for drivers
and transportation. Use $500 (or so) the first year and
then invest the rest so that the remainder of the money
and any income from the investment is available for
drivers/taxis, the next year. I thought that was a clever
idea that might be able to work any where. I do think w/
some of the nannies and caregivers and networks it's
probably fairly easy to find transportation options in
this area. Good luck. Amazingly, my Gma decided to stop
on her own. She only took out one mailbox (yikes) in the
- Know how you feel
My fiercely independent, stubborn mother shouldn't be driving
anymore. She does not live in the Bay Area, but lives in a
suburban community where walking places is not an option. She
won't consider moving, and even if she lived closer to stores,
etc., her health is such that she cannot walk long distances. If
she loses her license, we (my father, siblings, and I) are
concerned she will sit at home all day and will deteriorate
further physically and mentally. She won't accept rides from
friends (and doesn't have many left at this point). She can
afford to pay someone to drive her where she wants to go, but as
a child of the depression, her attitude is such that she will
refuse to pay someone to take her to run errands, nor would she
ever allow her children to pay for it either or to disrupt our
lives to help her. My father still works full time, and always
drives her at night, but cannot be home to drive her during the
day. We have considered a lot of options, but I thought I would
put it out to this network to see if anyone has an idea we
haven't thought of.
Concerned about Mom
We had to do this with my father in-law, while my mother in-law
did not want to do this. Apparently his doctor is supposed to
report that he was unfit to drive to the DMV (he had
parkinsons). He managed to drive daily and although he had an
episode while driving he continued to drive. It's very sad and
difficult for all concerned especially the person who is having
their independence curtailed. But when you know that the person
is a danger to themselves and others if driving there are steps
There are senior centers that offer shuttles to the centers, you
might want to check with them re shuttles. I would also check
the town Chamber of Commerce for options. Check the taxi service
for senior discounts and vouchers. Maybe see if she can get the
same driver each time.
When I found out that my dad had had several minor car accidents
-- it was clear he'd been hiding this information from me -- I
felt I had no choice but to contact his MD, who was bound to
report him to the DMV. My family was furious with me: Did I not
understand how devastating this would be for him, a native
Californian and also fiercely independent? I asked them if they
were willing to risk Dad hurting or killing himself or someone
else, or to take care of him if he caused property damage that
wiped out his finances? It turned out that by the time the DMV
sent him a letter, his health had, alas, taken a turn for the
worse, and he let his license go without argument. I hired a
driver for him from time to time, he learned to use various
transportation alternatives, and I bought a car he could easily
get in and out of. At another tough juncture with him, I brought
in a social worker from an agency (faith-based, as I recall), and
he was very responsive to her making the same suggestions I was
despite his initial irritation at me for inviting her to meet
with us. Both her training and her non-involvement helped; she
was more empathic and patient with him than I was by this time
and most importantly for him, I think, she was not his child or
spouse. I encourage you to bring in a geriatric social worker to
discuss your mom's situation with her (and the family, if
appropriate) and engage her in planning how best to make the next
stage work rather than telling her what she ''needs.''
Best of luck in making this difficult transition as gracefully as
Would one of those little motorized scooter things work? Seems
a bit safer than driving a car, and would let her do local
errands and outings without walking long distances.
Parent Health and Driving Priviledge
My mother almost killed both herself and my father when her
blood sugar went low while driving the two of them to dinner.
She nearly hit a snow plow head on and was pulled over by the
cops who originally thought she was drunk! Luckily they
figured out she was impaired rather than drunk and called an
ambulance. After this incident I contaced her Dr. and made
sure he sent the necessary paperwork to the DMV. She did have
her license suspended and I spend the next 4 months trying to
lessen the anger of my Mom. For the independent aging parent,
having their driving curtailed feels like losing their freedom.
When they can not drive it also puts a burden on everyone
around them. They still have to get to Dr. appts, store, etc.
The only thing that ultimately got through with my mom was that
she raised me to do what I think is right, and I thought it was
the right thing to do to protect her and others from her
driving. Doing the right thing has reaped unanticipated
rewards. She now is religous about control of her blood
sugar. Once she had been able to show this control (3+months)
she petitioned the state to reinstate her license and she did
in fact get it back without my consent of course. It has now
been almost 1 1/2 years since this happened and she is still
driving and controlling her blood sugar. Good Luck and just do
what you know is the right thing and hopefully everything will
work out for the best.
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