How does one handle taking away the ability to drive? My father is miserable and daily asks, pleads, argues and threatens to drive.


My moderately dementia stricken dad is often found sitting in the parked cars in the driveway, at all times of morning, day and evening, which by the way, the cars are all in his name. His job, as owner, included driving daily, most of the day. The van was basically his main office. I take him with me practically everywhere, including his company, which continues to operate under my supervision. Often I feel like giving in and letting him drive around the neighborhood for grocery store or car wash runs. Would that make matters significantly worse or help take the edge off so he can accept it more? He will not listen to reason of terrible possibilities of crashes and fatalities. He is greatly challenged to drink enough to not experience headaches and slight dizziness. He hallucinates quite a bit throughout most days although mostly the early morning or evenings is when he has major hallucinations. I am miserable for him but I don't show it and I stay firm. Is there a better way to handle this?



Letting your dad drive just once isn't going to help him come to terms with not being able to drive anymore. I know it hurts to see him so sad. I went through the same thing with my dad.

Someone who hallucinates shouldn't be behind the wheel regardless of what time of day the hallucinations occur. It just isn't safe. My dad had terrible health when he gave up driving and he didn't give it up easily. It was a very long, ongoing process that continued until his health had deteriorated to the point where driving wasn't even an issue anymore. He lived with me and we had numerous conversations about the driving. It was exhausting. He'd wear me down. But I knew once was all it took. Just one accident. He could get sued, he could injure someone, or injure himself. I wanted to throw my hands in the air out of sheer heartbreak and exasperation.

Stay committed. If you let your dad drive just once the issue will start all over again from the beginning only this time it'll be, "I drove that one time to the store and everything was fine!" It'll weaken your resolve and your argument and it won't help your dad in the slightest.

Many of us here have gone through the same thing. If you search the site you'll see numerous posts on the topic. It's just one more thing our elderly parents have to face as they grow infirm and one more thing we have to deal with as their adult children. It's not easy but it is common.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to Eyerishlass

Some of your dad's problems sound like "mis-medicated" - hallucinations can come from something simple, like Benedryl. When was your father last examined and did the physician review his medications?? So many seniors are over-medicated. If a medicine produces a side-effect, another medication is prescribed for the side-effect?!

Who determined that your father should not drive? And why? "Moderate Dementia" might not be enough reason - I fear most of us could be diagnosed that way today.

My father's heart doctor advised me, in front of dad, to "not be in a hurry to allow him to drive again." After avoiding a very near miss on a chain-reaction crash, my father was glad I was driving and not him - he said his reflexes would not have allowed him to avoid the crash of many vehicles. He taught me to always look for a place to go to avoid being the back car in a crash; ie: sidewalk, turn lane, shoulder.

I would advise you to speak with your dad's doctors to get their opinion of his driving capabilities. My dad was still driving when he was 82 but after his heart stents, he did quit driving at 83. He had been diagnosed as "early onset alzheimers" at the age of 82 but it never progressed. He had been mis-diagosed for Parkinson's and on medication for Parkinson's for 15 years - only to learn at 82 that he never had the disease. There is no way to determine what that medicine did to his body in 15 years. When he was diagnosed, it was a visual examination. A PET scan proved what I always believed, he never had Parkinson's.

Talk to dad's physicians to find out the best course of action.
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Reply to RayLinStephens

DeborahO, for what it's worth I think you are handling this with sensitivity and empathy towards your father while protecting public safety. If I were using the roads in your neighbourhood you would have my sincere gratitude for your good sense and firmness. I only wish it were less miserable for you.

Sympathise with your father, you understand him very well; but when it comes to his taking the wheel, go deaf.
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Reply to Countrymouse

Oh boy. My dad was happiest sitting in his truck in driveway with country music on. The driving thing takes a man down. Woman not as bad. I took both parents out for all of our combined errands. It still wasn’t enough as having your own freedom. Good luck, and prayers
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Reply to Ihave1now

Your father is unsafe behind the wheel. Do not give in to his pleas. The main reason this is an issue for him is because driving was tied up with his identity, because that's what he did for a living. It's less about "wanting to drive" than it is to "reestablish his sense of identity."
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Reply to dragonflower

We have been going back and forth with this for months now. MIL hasn't driven anyway since December of last year because she couldn't physically get to her car and physically could not get in and out of it because of edema.
She had a fall, was hospitalized and when she came out of rehab she decided she'd start driving again.
Three doctors recommended to her "do not drive" as her legs were so swelled and she had poor reflexes.

She heard the swelled part and since her rehab the edema has reduced. She is certain she can drive. She and my husband who has DPOA ...have argued and it got nasty a few times.
He took her car and brought it to our farm.

She was hot as a cat on a hot tin roof.
Last week she had another test and the doctor told her she should not drive. He tried to explain to her that she had a lack of spatial understanding and that driving would be dangerous.
She is sure she will drive again soon.

The car is parked in a pasture.
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Reply to Val3rie

deborah, I was wondering about the hallucinations. Has your Dad been checked to see if he has an Urinary Tract Infection? Since an infection at his age can cause all types of major symptoms such as hallucinations. Such a test can be done at Dad's primary doctor's office or even at urgent care.

I remember when my Dad wanted to start driving again it was major arguments. I used "theraputic fibs" to try to convince Dad that if he was in a serious accident he could lose everything he and Mom had saved plus their house. The main reason for these arguments was because I wasn't driving my parents enough. I just couldn't take more time off from work to take my parents grocery shopping.... [sigh]. They refused taxi cabs or community bus service.
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Reply to freqflyer

BTW - we must remember that driving is not a "right;" it is a privilege. When the state says that we are unsafe behind the wheel, then that privilege can be revoked. Any citizen can call the Department of Motor Vehicles and report a driver as unsafe, whether it is their elderly parent or a complete stranger. They will administer a driving test to that person.
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Reply to dragonflower

I love shaking’s solution!  That gave me a little slice of joy this morning.  I wanted to tell her this, but had no route to do so.  Can you not message other people to say thanks or send a hug anymore?

For whoever has this option, wouldn’t it be nice to get them a golf cart or cushman and accompany them on toots around the neighborhood? Not saying it wouldn’t have its own risks, but it’s a thought. Or some kind of bicycle with a cart or three wheels, if the person was fit enough. Like a big wheel for seniors! There is not enough embrace and innovation in this area yet, letting them experience things safely. Prayers that we’re moving that way... love the video reports on senior homes being aligned with children’s nurseries or animal rescue groups. I think they’re always in Holland.
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Reply to Zdarov

Losing driving ability can also be hard on women. Our mother had to take over all driving once our father could not. She was used to taking herself all over the place even before that, but being the sole driver for many years made it hard to take the car away! He passed away in 2008, so she had about another 7 years or so of driving (she was about 91-92 when we had to stop her.) Had my younger brother told me about the accident she had that took out the front end of the car, I would *NOT* have facilitated getting her license renewed (we had to get eye doc note and make a trip to the RMV to do this.)

She managed to ruin the front end a second time (repair shop told me then about the fact that he had already replaced the nose of this car!), but she continued to drive after it was repaired. When I got a call from her about a flat tire, I brought my portable air pump only to find the tire split open from rim to ground! The tire rim was ruined as well, from driving on it that way. Metal wheel well trim all mucked up, white stripes on both sides from scraping the garage trim... At some point we found the inspection sticker was expired! As dragonflower says, and I told her as well, driving is a PRIVILEGE, not a RIGHT! If one cannot do simple maintenance, ensure the auto is up to snuff AND cannot know or understand where any damage came from, it is time to hang up those keys! I had to chat with local brother and we went together to tell her she needed to stop - he did all the talking and took the keys. On the way out, I asked him to disable it as well, because I was sure she had another set of keys. Sure enough, next day I get a nasty message demanding I return the keys I took. I was able to say I never touched the keys and was asked well who did then - response was you're so smart, you figure it out! If she cannot recall my brother talking to her and taking the keys, it IS time! Day two - even NASTIER call demanding I get down there and fix whatever I did to her car! So, indeed she DID have another set of keys, rummaged around and managed to find them and attempted to go out. Once again I could honestly say I did not touch her car and then state I'm not a mechanic, I have no idea what is wrong with it (that second part was a fib.)

For many months after she demanded her car back, bitched about losing her "wheels", and being unable to get out and go where she wants when she wants. She had been doing less and less driving on her own, not driving at night, then restricting her trips to very local places (was becoming unable to find her way back if someone else was driving!) Her last excuse was "I don't go far." Doesn't matter mom, if you go 2 feet and hit someone or something, you can get sued and lose everything! But she would still insist. They really don't understand. Funny that it eventually that became HER decision, stating the worst thing she did was give up her "wheels!" Eventually that stopped too. She complains now about being bored, there's nothing to do here (MC), etc.

BTW, the doctors were of no help - simply writing a note telling her it wasn't safe for her to drive was NOT cutting it! I found that doctors do not want to get in the middle of this issue. Police generally also do not get involved until something happens - but then it could be too late!!!

You have to stand your ground. Just dementia alone can lead to dangerous driving and/or getting lost. The hallucinating is even worse! Letting him drive "sometimes" is just going to reinforce his need to drive. Sounds like there are multiple vehicles involved. Is there any way to move them elsewhere or better yet sell them? Out of sight, out of mind. Only keep your car(s) there If he asks where his are, say they are in the shop getting repaired/tune up, out for inspection, employee delivering something or doing work somewhere. There are many excuses you can use - be creative!! Also, don't feed into it and do not try to argue the issue with him - it's a no win situation! If he asks, defer it to later (we'll see, busy now, maybe later, etc.) Change the subject whenever possible. Try telling him it is doctor orders, so until doctor gives okay, he cannot drive (always good to lay them blame on someone else, who is not there!)
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Reply to disgustedtoo

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