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.