My 83 year old mom has dementia and is in denial about it. She recently had a bad fall and broke both her wrists . This past Thursday her casts were removed with a 20 lb. limitation and prescribed occupational therapy. Knowing my mom (who is extremely controlling, willful and outright mean), I knew she would attempt to drive her manual (non-power steering) stick shift vehicle. Prior to this accident I was concerned about her driving and have refused to ride as a passenger for over a year. I didn’t know how to handle the situation before the accident so I was sort of ignoring it. But this accident and the further decline in her mental capacity seemed to be a good segue into possibly retiring her from her driving (she drives from North Carolina to Pensylvania every fall to see her sister and I know this is her intent this year…we are all on pins and needles each time she strikes out, but I think the next time will be a suicide mission). I’d also like to ad that she not only does not have the strength to steer this vehicle at this point, but her mental capacity is so bad that her doctor - on his own, prescribed Aricept about a week ago. She feels it is her right to drive her manual stick shift vehicle (no power steering, brakes, etc.) anywhere she pleases. I’ve discussed my concern with her in the past – that she could hurt herself and others on the road and she’s stated to me “I don’t care”. Anyway, she's refusing to take the Aricept due to her understanding that it has side effects...what drug doesn't!!? So, when the casts came off, I saw the wheels turning and I asked my brother to hide her keys because I could see both her and her car ending up in the middle of her neighbors living room (she has a very steep driveway). The very next day after her casts came off (last night), she called my brother in an absolute RAGE, SCREAMING at him that we are treating her like she is subhuman by taking her keys and not allowing her freedom. My brother called me in complete shock saying he’s never in his life had her lay into him like that before (and mind you - my mother was an abusive mother throughout our lives…I grew up in a foster home) so that made me nervous also. It’s not like she can hurt us at this point but dealing with her in that state is frightening and my brother was worried she’d stroke out over it. I’m afraid to go over there or call for fear that she will unload again.
I want to use Aricept as a carrot and if she agrees to take it, to possibly allow her to drive at some point if she is able. I am afraid that once she gets the keys she will say to hell with you and do whatever she wants at that point (she makes a lot of promises she doesn’t keep and now,conveniently can say she doesn’t remember). Do you think it is wise to even entertain this type of “deal”, or do you think we should allow her to drive? Or how does one go about this major adjustment in a person’s life? All of this is so foreign to me and my brother and we just don’t know how to handle this. Any suggestions???

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Thank you. And yes, I've begun the process of having the DMV evaluate her. If they deem her able to drive, I'd be surprised, but that's what she wants EXPERT making the determination.
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Forget just taking her keys away, I'd get the car out of sight too. The fact that there's a car that she's unable to drive, would be maddening. Make the doctor the bad guy, who cares?
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Thank you both for your input. I feel better about the decision and I was feeling like making a deal might backfire for me. And yes, both my brother and I have discussed the trip to PA and one driving up to drop off and the other driving up to get her is/was/has been the plan once she was unable to drive. She acts as though we are enjoying this event and intent on torturing her. The truth be known, it's a huge inconvenience for both of us to have to pick up this responsibility (as you understand), so I think you are right...her reaction is a good indication that she should NOT be driving anymore. Her lack of concern for others on the road is not sound thinking. Thanks to both of you for your advice. Most appreciated. :)
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Just do it.

I'm not so concerned that her behavior might be suicidal. I'm more worried about homicide.

Don't make any deals. If she takes the Aricept some of her symptoms might be reduced. This is to her advantage and if she doesn't want an advantage, that is her choice. But Aricept is not going to make her a fit driver.

Plus, she is obviously not to be trusted. You can make a deal, give her back the keys, and have her disregard her end of the bargain.

Get her license revoked. Sell the car. Meanwhile, keep the keys hidden. (Consider removing the car from the premises. My brother stored my husband's car while we went through the other steps.)

Her rage is a good indication that this womean is no longer fit for the responsibility of driving.

This is very, very hard for you. It may be among the hardest things you'll have to do in caring for your declining mother. I am sorry that you are in this situation. But as Darcy points out, it would be harder still to have innocent bystanders on your conscience if you don't prevent your mother from irresponsibly endangering others.

Be thinking of how Mother is going to visit Auntie this fall. Can one of you drive her? You take her one way and brother pick her up? Is a bus trip feasible? Cause she sure shouldn't be behind the steering wheel.

Not being able to drive was/is the number one heartbreak of his dementia for my husband. Being the only driver in the house has been extremely inconvenient for me. Dealing with his depression and anger over not driving has been awful. But none of that changes the reality that he cannot safely drive and trying to do so would put others at risk.

Dementia is your mother's disease, and it is also your new reality. Sorry.
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Ask her Dr. He/She can say she is no longer fit to drive and take away her license. Once that is done, take the keys. You choose if you do it in secret when she isn't looking or if you sit down and have a talk having her volunteer them to you. Think about it this way.... Think about it this are you going to feel when you have to face someone and explain to THEM why you didn't get the keys from her BEFORE she killed their child/loved one with the car??
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