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My 91 yr old father-in-law over the past year has shown significant signs that his ability to drive safely is diminishing. He will frequently get lost, disorientated, and drives very slowly amongst traffic. His family has taken his car away, he is very upset and understandably so but his ability to drive a car safely and the safety to the public is a big concern. He has reacted strongly to having his vehicle taken away and is pursuing legal action to the car back. What can be done to discourage his continuing to drive? Thanks, for any helpful advise.

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Let him waste his money suing. Meanwhile disable the car and hide the keys.
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Some people like to threaten legal action because the thought of it can intimidate even strong people.

I doubt if he knows how to "take legal action", and as a former legal person I'm not sure what he could really do.

If he wants to file suit, he'll have to either stumble through it himself (and it's not easy to navigate the legal system and figure out the court rules), paying high costs just to initiate suit and then for service. I can't imagine anyone but a down and out attorney taking a case like that, and even then, more than likely a several hundred dollar retainer would be required.

For him to threaten suggests to me he feels he's got his back against the wall, is "outgunned", is losing a precious freedom, and needs to be defensive. Try to find ways to defuse his anger/fear, and help guide him through the transition to allowing others to drive for him.

So, think of the Indiana Jones principle of replacement before removal. Start taking him here he needs to go on the pretense that you want to spend more time with him. Take him through areas where he can let his mind wander and see the scenery, and relax.

Take him to his doctor appointments, then a relaxation event afterward, perhaps his favorite restaurant, a walk in the woods or park, whatever he likes to do.

Make the transition as seamless as possible by substituting attention and more bonding time.
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Let Dad take legal action. At some point, the lawyer or magistrate will contact you (should it go that far). Be sure to congratulate him/her on enabling a 91-y.o. with impaired reaction time and diminished cognition to Keep On Driving — in the same region where the lawyer’s or magistrate‘s spouse-children-grandchildren go to school, church, soccer practice, shopping, errands, the whole bit. Bravo.
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When you say "pursuing legal action" what does that mean? I don't know anything about the law but I'm not sure your FIL has any recourse here. He calls a lawyer and says what? "My children took my car away." And then the lawyer does what?

Of course your FIL reacted strongly. All elderly people do. Not that it matters anymore but I wonder how his family broached this with him. Did they just declare that FIL couldn't drive anymore and take away the car or was it a discussion that took place over time with compassion and respect?

The approach a family takes with this issue is very important. Your FIL's seemingly knee-jerk reaction to not being able to drive and trying to find a legal way around it sounds like he's running on anger and desperation and pursuing legal recourse is fueling his fire, helping your FIL feel as if he's still in control of his own life and that's what driving privileges are about. Being in control of one's own life. Your FIL is trying to regain some control that was taken away from him.

What are you going to do if some lawyer requests that FIL take a driving test---and he passes?
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I feel you on this one. My Mom turned 91 this year. True to her word, she stopped driving at night many years ago and then stopped driving on freeways/highways. She had shoulder surgery last year, was told no driving for 3 months - the same amount of time for her other shoulder replacement 6 years ago. I found out after she promised in front of me, her Dr. and his nurse, that she would stop driving, that in fact she has still been driving. I no longer work and am happy to take her to her appointments. That way I know exactly what is said at appointments because she doesn’t always remember what was said. I have been asking her doctor to tell her to stop driving, give her a hearing test but those went by the wayside. She had an incident earlier this year. At that point, I went to her house and took her car keys - All of them!! She didn’t notice right away and I knew I was in for a battle when she asked me. I had to stand my ground and say no. Then, she called her mechanic, said she locked her keys in the car and ordered a new set!!! The only way I found out about it was she had a package delivered which she asked me to go get. When I picked up her delivery, front desk was on phone with her because she had just had a hand delivery. I could tell he was caught in the middle. I mean she was probably telling him to not give them to me. However, I wasn’t going to let it happen and I basically snatched the invoice with keys from him. When he hung up with Mom, I told him that Mom is no longer supposed to drive. Called the mechanic and told them she was no longer capable of driving and if she called again to not place the order. When I got back up to her condo with the package she asked “Did you get my keys?” “Yes, I got them but I am not giving them to you.”  You know you’re not supposed to drive. If you are so concerned about your father’s driving the DMV has a form you or a physician can fill out and sign. You can submit it anonymously. It’s the REQUEST FOR DRIVER REEXAMINATION. I did fill one out and mailed it to local DMV Office. You can ask to remain anonymous or you can have your Dad’s doctor fill it out and send it in. I do know she has received the letter (7-10 days ago) but she has not said a word to me about receiving it. Best of luck to you!!
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