My Dad Has Alzheimer’s and Should Not Be Driving

The troubling issue of how to keep a loved one who has Alzheimer’s from driving comes up often. The independence we all enjoy from driving a car is extraordinary, and most of us, including our parents, have been driving since we were teenagers. When confronted, our parents will be the first to lecture us, with anger, that they have been driving since well before we were born, and that they are just fine. An Alzheimer’s patient however will probably not be able to comprehend the danger of getting behind the wheel. When we have conversations with family members about how to handle this issue, it is usually coupled with a story about how Dad hit something or knocked something over with his car, but that no was hurt this time.

 There are things you can do. Blatantly taking the keys away with a lecture is one approach, but can create resentment and anger. However, taking the keys away or “losing them” may be necessary when weighed against public safety. Psychologists who deal with Alzheimer’s patients say however that it may be better to create a diversion. One son of an Alzheimer’s parent told me that he parked one of his older cars in his Dad’s driveway so that his Dad could not back out. The son told his Dad that he could not start his car when trying to leave and was trying to fix it, and that he was calling his brother to pick him up. When his Dad would bring up the issue and tell his son to get his car out of the driveway, his son would change the subject. Or he would tell his Dad that he was still working on trying to find an after-market fuel pump for the car but was having a hard time. The son would then bring up another subject like what would his Dad like for dinner.

 Another approach is to write to the Department of Motor Vehicles about your parent’s Alzheimer’s condition or fill out a Request for Driver Reexamination form. The DMV will keep your request confidential at your request. You can also ask your father’s M.D. to fill out the form.  

 This information is not to be taken as legal advice, and you are encouraged to see your elder law attorney. At the Law Offices of Michael J. Young, at 1931 San Miguel Dr., Ste. 220, Walnut Creek, CA www.WalnutCreekElderLaw, 925-256-0298, we practice Elder Law and we help Baby Boomers and families through the Elder Care Journey. We help families with long-term care planning, asset-protection plans, comprehensive estate planning, wills, trusts and powers of attorney. We also help Baby Boomers and families get their “Ducks in a Row” in order help them qualify for Medi-Cal and the VA Aid & Attendance Improved Pension benefit.

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