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My mom has dementia. She still wants to drive. We took her car keys away and now we never hear the end of it! Very nasty and threatening!

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Dear "Haircraft127,"

I have been in your shoes and it isn't pleasant I know. My mom has always loved to drive throughout her whole life. She was always tooling around somewhere. Around 2013, she began to get lost frequently even to the point she was supposed to meet me for lunch after we both left the same place in our own cars. She never did show up and I had called her all afternoon until she finally answered around 5 p.m.

Another incident happened with a family friend who told me this a year or so after the fact. My mom ran a red light with her friend in the car. The friend told her five adult children and they said they never wanted my mom to drive her anywhere. When they did go out together, the friend did the driving. Whenever I was with her since my dad died in 2004, I always did the driving. When my husband and I went to my mom's house, he happened to find a speeding ticket laying around. From what I gather she paid it on the spot.

Finally, in 2014 she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. One of her siblings had her take a trip to where she lived for three months while I took care of some things down here. I figured when she returned that it would be a good time to take away her car keys. I knew it was going to be awful and it was. No matter how I tried to explain that I didn't want her to kill or injure herself and/or others as well as I didn't want her to feel guilty and I certainly didn't want to feel guilty either. I asked her for her keys as well as any spare sets. I still wasn't sure if she gave all of them to me so I put a steering wheel lock on and took the key home with me. When I would go over there for a visit, I unlocked it and I drove her wherever we were going and then before I left put it back on. My husband still thinks she never forgave us for doing that and she hung onto it for at least three years.

She is no longer able to walk and is on hospice in a new facility in their memory care unit so she is long past the driving issue. I had sold her car in 2015 to some friends of ours.

You will have to learn to turn a deaf ear. Every time my mom would bring it up, she would be upset and each time I explained why she shouldn't be driving to the point I sounded like a broken record. I know she probably told her siblings and I was probably made out to be the bad guy but the alternative would be something horrible happens that I'd have to live with the rest of my life. There may even have been some liability on my part if I knowingly let her drive with an Alzheimer's diagnosis. No way was that going to happen to me. I had a moral obligation. I'll take the anger over that any day. Trust me - this will pass in time as your mom's disease progresses and it will be long forgotten!
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Reply to NobodyGetsIt
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If possible get the car away from the house. Fib a little. Car broke down, towed to the dealer, part hasn’t come in yet etc. it’s better if she doesn’t see the car all the time.

If you have legal rights to do so sell the car at market value and put the money in moms account.

My dad was looking for his car for 2 years after he went into care. It was a battle. I quit trying to explain, he would never accept that he had dementia and wasn’t safe. So, fib, divert, fib some more, just tried to keep him calm.

I think the two hardest elder issues are taking the car and getting elders into care.
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Reply to Windyridge
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Let the nasty go in one ear and out the other. It had to be done.
Her anger is really directed at aging and loss of independence not at you.
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NobodyGetsIt Aug 17, 2020
Good point "MammaDrama" it's just too bad her mom won't get the last part of what you said!
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What I did was try to replace this loss with rides from trusted family, friends, neighbors and church members. I did need to do the coordinating, but I also gave the drivers gc's to their favorite places to eat, enough to cover both their meals. This way the outing was also a social event. This still works well.
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NobodyGetsIt Aug 17, 2020
Dear "Geaton777," - what a good idea as well as a nice gesture giving the drivers gift cards to their favorite places and making it a social event. I'm glad that worked out for you with your mom's situation and still continues to work well.
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You simply tell her that she is no longer able to drive as she constitutes a danger to herself and others, and say it gently, and tell her that this is a big life change that is very difficult for her and you understand that, and are so very sorry. Repeat that until she tires of it. It is a fact. It is worth raging and fury and grief over the fact that at the end of life every single thing is taken from us one thing at a time, and in the end, dignity and choice go as well. It is worth the grief and anger. But it is NOT your fault. Sympathize with her. And tell her there is nothing in your power to do about it. Don't argue. No one really wins and argument.
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Reply to AlvaDeer
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Countrymouse Aug 17, 2020
Simply?! :)
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I think 95% of elders who get keys taken away are mad about it. And stay mad for a long time! It has to be done, but it's hard.

It may help if you go with Mom to her next doctor's appointment and mention about the driving beforehand. Doctor can then mention it to Mom. Sometimes elders take the no-driving news much better from doctors than their adult children.

My grandfather was getting macular degeneration and early stage dementia. His car was getting the dents and dings from his trips to the grocery store, and we knew we'd have to take the keys and he would NOT be happy. My mom went with him to an ophthalmologist appointment. Without my mom even prompting the doctor, he told grandfather kindly but firmly that he could not drive anymore. To our surprise, he accepted the doctor's words and never drove again. I think if we'd tried to take them on our own, he'd have put up a huge fight.
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Reply to LoopyLoo
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disgustedtoo Aug 20, 2020
Gotta love those unexplained dents and dings!

For mom, first the back of the driver mirror was gone. Oh, it was there the last time I drove it! Sure it was. Next was a call for help to fix a flat tire. I brought my tire pump, and then just gaped at the mess! Tire was split from rim to ground, the rim was damaged, the metal around the wheel well was half off and bent and the rear tire had some damage too! Geez mom, what did you hit? Nothing. I had to use my AAA to get it to mechanic, replace the rims and tires. Oi! It also developed white stripes on both front fenders, from scraping the garage trim.

Last thing a 90+ yo with mac deg, hearing loss and early dementia needs is an 8-cylinder behemoth!
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Blame the Doctor. Or the licencing authority. Only natural to feel angry - doesn't mean you or sister have to wear it though. Empathise & dodge would be my tactic.

"The Doctor said you are not allowed to drive anymore. That IS tough". Add sympathetic face. Leave room pronto.
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Reply to Beatty
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Jasmina Aug 21, 2020
That will start a fight. No one wants to be told your too old. You can't mentally handle driving. That will turn into a meltdown. You just insulted them albeit you didn't mean to.
But saying the car won't start. We don't have the $ to get it fixed. For most of us, saying there is no money; people understand that. No fighting. No hurt feelings. No one blamed.
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Our eldercare law firm has successfully used GoGoGrandparent for clients whose license we have had to take away. The senior can make calls from their landline or cell phone, and payment of the driving service (Lyft, Uber) is handled by a third party at our firm. We get all notifications as to when they call, when they enter the car, when they are dropped off, etc. It is very easy for the senior to use, and once they get the hang of it, they love it. Much easier than driving.
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Reply to AllThingsNew
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We had to do this with my Mom. She would call me saying my sister took her keys; and it depended on how she was doing that day. Everyone’s dementia is different. With my Mom she would be real lucid parts of the day. So, it depended on how she would be doing that day as to how I would handle. I hated telling little exaggerations to her, but sometimes it was warranted. She would call my sister multiple times at work, and I wasn’t working so we told her I had her keys (which were given to me). We would tell her that her car wasn’t running right, so we took the keys to give to the car repair people that were going to pick up the car later that day. This seemed to satisfy her. We found that because we told her not to take the car, she may forget, so put keys that looked like hers and she never seemed to challeng it.
There is no easy answer. Some times if she was really lucid I would tell her she knows we love her so much and we would never take from her ; and she agreed she wouldn’t want to ever hurt anyone by accident, so she gave us the keys for safe keeping.
Regardless of your response, keep it consistent And loving like it was the first time they asked! God bless you.
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Reply to tamiof6
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I have a dear friend that willingly gave up her car for her 90th birthday.

I could see that she was starting to fail, I think that she was to isolated by her decision. She used to go to lunch and thrift shopping regularly, not to mention the multiple stores for the grocery sales, it's what occupied her time.

I decided that I would give her one day every week to take her wherever she wanted to go. That was 6 weeks ago and she ran me ragged the 1st month. Now that it is a routine for her she has improved tremendously in all aspects of her wellbeing. This week was the 1st time that she didn't have 15 different places to go, thank you Lord! I enjoy being at her service and she has regained a level of independence that was lost when she lost her ability to go. I think this is universal for seniors or anyone that can no longer drive, but I think that you can help her by taking her wherever she wants to go 1 day a week and let her be in control of where you go and how long you stay, it might help. Even if it means you drive 3 miles to save 25 cents on a dozen eggs. Ugh! Giving her control could very well calm her down.

My dear friend, whom I call mama, was sitting in the passenger seat this week and said, "look at me! I am sitting here with not one care in the world while you deal with traffic and getting me where I need to go. Boy, I have the life of Riley!" She is loving that she has a chauffeur, I don't believe that she thought it would be as nice as it is.

One thing that I do, I ask her for directions to where we are going. It makes her feel good to direct me on how to get there. Keeps her brain active and helps keep her oriented to her location.

I know that I could never do this with my mom, so maybe if you can't do it with yours you have a friend that you can trade off and do it for each others mom or dad. That adds another benefit of socializing for the senior. Being patient and reminding yourself that this is for so much more than groceries can get you through the seeming nonsense of how they shop. (We also try a different type of food or a new restaurant every week.)

Providing alternate transportation is the only way to get through this.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
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Vanistan Aug 21, 2020
What a beautiful thing you've done for your friend, and by extension, her family. Thank you!
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