Alzheimer's Reading Room
Driving is a powerful symbol of independence, freedom and competence and includes a primary routine to daily living. Alzheimer’s disease affects cognitive functions critical to driving and eventually everyone, including my mother loses the ability to drive safely.
My brother and I weren’t aware that Mom’s driving was a problem until one of her friends called me one day and said,
“Barbara, I think there is something wrong with Bonnie because every time we drive to the mall she gets lost and we’ve been doing this for years.”She continued to tell me many stories that made me very concerned. She said,
“Last week your mom was going north on the freeway when we were suppose to be going south. When I tried to correct her she became very angry. She changed lanes without using her signal and we had several near misses when she would drive over the line. Finally, I convinced her to ask for directions and then we made it home. A one hour drive took us three hours.”When I took Mom to her next doctor’s appointment, I discussed the matter and he advised her to stop driving. She became furious and yelled,
“Just because I get lost doesn’t mean I don’t know how to drive.”I knew that if she wouldn’t listen to the doctor then she definitely wouldn’t listen to me.
I discussed the situation with my brother and we created a plan. He would disconnect the cables to the battery. Well, she called a mechanic to look at the car and he connected the cables and she outsmarted us. I called the doctor with our problem and he said, “I’ll write a letter to the Texas Department of Public Safety and have her licensed revoked.” Problem solved. Wrong!
The letter came in the mail and she said,
“There’s not a damn thing wrong with me or my driving!”So, once again my brother disassembled a car part. This time she called him to come fix the car and he showed up with a tow trailer. He drove the car onto the trailer and Mom stood in the yard as she watched her car being towed away.
We were lucky. She never asked for her car again. Out of sight…Out of mind.
Each family must select strategies that will work for them. I have talked to many caregivers that have lost sleep over trying to take a car away. If you’re not sure if it’s safe for your loved one to drive, ask yourself if you’d feel safe riding with them or would you want your children to ride with them.
Many caregivers regret allowing a loved one to drive longer than it was safe resulting in anxiety for both the caregivers and placing others at risk.
Barbara Pursley was born in Galveston, Texas and is the author of EMBRACING THE MOMENT. Barabara attended Santa Monica College, studied photography, and worked as a commercial photographer before returning to Texas to care for her mother. Barbara also taught journal writing to women in Texas rehabilitation facilities. She put her God inspired journal entries and photographs into book form in 2009.
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Original content Barbara Pursley, the Alzheimer's Reading Room