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Taking the Car Keys: What to Do If an Elderly Loved One Won't Give Them Up


My mother was age 85 and started to have memory losses. I was afraid of her driving so one day I went out to her car and removed the battery from it. When she tried to start it the car would not start and I told her that the car was going to cost a lot to fix. She then had friends or me take her places (better then her getting into an accident or hurting someone)

Around 20 years ago, my father's mother ran into her apartment building. She had been having about one accident every six months.
Allstate REFUSED to cancel her car insurance saying they cannot do that to old people. When she ran into the apartment building she also re-broke her back. She was a very stubborn and nasty woman. We brought her home from the hospital. I was there within a few feet of her, and she got up without telling me to go to the bathroom. She started screaming for me to pick her up as she was falling. I could not do that due to her weight. She ended up in the hospital again then sent to assisted living and finally a nursing home. My father had the insurance pay for her car and the apartment building. Then he cancelled the policy. While she was in the hospital the second time, he took her keys and told her apartment leasing folks that she would not be back. Due to her bad temper, she lost her ability to drive and to live on her own. One day, she threw her room mate's clothes into the trash can. We had to find another place for her to go after that.

I must say in response to those who would install a toggle switch or some other device to disable the car, what's stopping them from trading it in and just replacing it with another car? This crossed my mind reading some of the comments here. Yes, this is very possible because if a car doesn't run when it otherwise would, the elder can trade it in for another car that will run. Depending on how recently the person bought the car, they may go to another shop and have the car towed there and any mechanic would be able to spot the toggle switch and remove it, especially at the dealership where the person bought the car


You would only be responsible if you were the elder's guardian. Otherwise, no you're not responsible if the elder has an accident, the responsibility falls solely on the driver if they caused the accident

Someone mentioned hear about someone still driving at 90. I wouldn't necessarily call the doctor a jerk off, some people up in age can still drive very safely as long as they continue being able to pass the test and as long as their brains are still functioning and able to allow them to drive safely. I had a foster grandpa who drove well up into his old age and he drove very safely. Not everyone up in age needs to give up driving because some of them are actually still pretty safe.

Be very careful trying to take the keys away from people because not everyone lays them down and not everyone carries the ignition key on the same ring as the other keys. Not every woman carries a purse either, so getting the keys away from such a case as that may be more difficult or even impossible. Some people are more careful with the keys than you think. Sometimes people may carry as few keys as absolutely possible because not everyone likes to carry a big wad of keys. It's never a good idea to go and some lady's purse to grab her keys, this is disrespect for her and her stuff. This is one good example as to why I among other women prefer her not to carry a purse because I don't want someone else's hands in my purse, I'm one of those kinds who will knock you out if I catch you reaching for my stuff. Reaching into someone's purse is never a good idea and you do so at your own risk. Also vandalizing someone's car so it won't run is never a good idea and also stealing someone's car is never a good idea. The other alternatives in this article are actually very proper and appropriate. I highly recommend just going through the proper channels if someone needs to get off the road.

I should add, my husband has power of attorney over all financials and property - car is property and I even ran it thru my legal dept at work.

BTW - please check with your parents' car insurance coverage to see if they are even covered. Believe it or not no matter how many times we told the attorneys that if she and God forbid killed someone, that no insurance would be there because her license was suspended, they refused to act. So we did.

We tried the DMV - they sent letters, notices - she threw them away. She threw away the fix it ticket notices - that went from $25 to $513 when we paid it the other day. DMV suspended her license in October; her court-appointed attorney insisted she has a right to drive until they say she can't.

So stip in conservatorship court said we would take her to DMV to get tested. Only problem was that DMV said she couldn't do that anymore as she ignored all those notices. Now she had to have an administration hearing. We told her CAAttorney that we would not do that as they recommended an attorney be present. He refused. (seriously).

So we took the keys. Neighbors help locate 2nd set of keys in boxes belonging to dead boyfriend in the house. (seriously).

Went down yesterday - got the 2nd set of keys AND took the car. Lots of anger, stress, she beat on my husband - but it's now in storage and away from her.

And our attorney (yes, ours) says her attorney can claim we are in breach.
We are all in the "bring it on" stage now.

Oh and her CAAttorney claims she has mild dementia; Neurologist states she has full on Alzheimer's Disease - dementia was a year ago. I will be personally reporting her CAAttorney to the State Bar when this is over.

My elder's doctor had to be *strongly* persuaded to report him/her to the California DMV. The DMV went through the motions, but gave my elder a clean bill of driving health!

We do what we can to minimize my elder's driving -- but we cannot stop it altogether. S/he's still got it together enough that mechanical trickery or "lost" keys won't work.

If an accident happens -- no matter where I am at the time -- I believe I am as morally and ethically responsible as if it were me behind the wheel. (I'm the only locally available backup driver.)

Legally, however, we have no standing at present. After reading the latest on this thread, I will seek professional legal advice. But even if I am not legally liable, my moral/ethical responsibility remains.


i'm gonna get locked up. .