Charlie’s Driving Privileges


The time has come that I have been dreading. NH driver's licenses renew on our birthday.

Charlie's birthday is in January and the dreaded five-year notice came in the mail a few weeks ago. I didn't tell him it had arrived, knowing it would cause him some anxiety, since the notice said he has to appear in person to renew. That's the case for everyone over 75 years of age in our state.

Charlie hasn't driven at all in the past year, and only infrequently for the past three years, since he got lost on what should have been a short, routine drive. He thinks his driving skills are still good and he should be allowed to drive if I am with him to act as his navigator. More importantly, he wants to keep his license in the event we have an emergency and he needs to drive.

Today, I finally called the DMV to see what is involved when he appears at the office to renew the license, a thirty-mile drive.

Thankfully, I was told that he only has to pass a vision test. I don't think that will be a problem. His vision is better than mine. It is his coordination, reflexes and mental decision-making that are the problem.

I toyed with the idea of not even telling him his renewal was imminent and just allowing it to expire. But I knew that, one-day, he would pull out his old license and panic.

So, I have decided to take him to the DMV office and let them decide if he is able to have a driver's license. Not that I am going to let him drive. That is not going to happen; short of an emergency. But at least he will have the satisfaction of thinking he is still capable, in the eyes of the DMV, of driving.

It's a tough call, knowing when a senior has to give up his or her driving privileges.

Everything from medications, to poor vision, to muscle pain can affect how a person responds behind the wheel. There are things we can do to keep us driving longer; don't drive after dark, avoid driving in bad weather and plan our route ahead of time to avoid heavy traffic or high-speed highways.

But, if we find ourselves having close calls, or our children begin to question whether or not we should continue driving, it is time to be honest with ourselves about our ability to drive safely.

If you, as a caregiver, find your loved one is becoming a danger to themselves or others, don't hesitate to take the keys away. If you are unable to do this yourself, then a discreet call to your local DMV office may be the answer to the problem.

As for Charlie, he may get his license renewed, but if I have anything to say about it, he won't be driving. So far he has not given me trouble about that – I think he enjoys sitting back and looking at the scenery. I intend to keep it that way.

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

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Before my sister shared information, I drove to NY. Had allowed Mother to drive us to a doctor appt. It was @ that time I DECIDED enough. Them talked to sister and grilled her as to 'Why didn't you mention Mother's worrisome driving ability?' After that heated -from my end- discussion, I took all the keys & her license. Fortunately for us, Mother's neighbor was willing an qualified to drive, so the discussion was made that she -the neighbor- would assume the driving when needed. There has been some problems since, but not the worry of Mother driving. The neighbor has been added as a driver on the insurance policy (primary operator) and we maintain the vehicle. Having done this was not as hard as it was perceived to be in our case, though each family situation is different. Be kind to those that won't like it, but stand your ground, you will sleep better knowing the course of action taken was the correct thing to do.
I haven't faced the license issue (which is tricky because the license has other purposes besides driving, such as identification, etc.) but I have dealt with the "keys and driving" issue. After he had a seizure, I told my husband that his license wasn't valid for a year, which was true. But I knew that he might not remember that. And one of the things that he still does each time he leaves the house is put his wallet and his keys in his pocket. While he seemed content to let me do the driving, I knew he would miss the key if I took it away and we would have to have this conversation (about how he can't drive) every time he went out the door.

So, I took his key to the car to the local hardware store and asked them to make me a key that looked identical but would NOT work. It was the first time they had been asked to make a non-functioning key, but, after clarification and explanation, they happily complied. I replaced his functioning key with the non-functioning one. But I left him the clicker gizmo that opens all the doors and the trunk. When we walk out to get into the car, he can still open the doors for us, and I just climb into the driver's seat. Now I don't have to worry that sometime, when I'm taking a nap, he'll be able to drive off.
You could let your doctor make that decision. The doctor notifies the DMV and they send an application that the person must turn in. Then there is a battery of tests, including the written one given to kids. Finally, a road test. This happened to my best friend recently, and sadly, she failed them all except the eye test. It's very hard on her, but it was necessary.

If the doctor makes the decision, you won't have to. I also don't drive because I can't turn my head properly but I was able to renew mine with only the eye test. I only keep it for identification purposes.