This is the harsh reality and nature of dementia – ever changing and slowly progressive. But when is it time to make the call and take away the car keys? Moreover, how do you go about breaking this news to your loved one without being met with resistance and resentment?
One thing’s for sure, a family meeting about wanting them to stop driving is not advised. In this instance, it’s best to use a subtle approach, slowly coaxing them into the idea that driving unassisted is no longer safe.
Here are three simple ways to keep your loved one off the road:
1. Suggest taking a break from driving
As a child, sibling or spouse who is concerned over the safety of a loved one with dementia being on the road, it’s worth trying to suggest that they take a break from driving. Now, you will most likely be met with ‘’why?’’ or an immediate aversion to this idea. This is where you need an adequate reason for taking a break that your loved one cannot really argue with.
- Use a physical, non-threatening reason i.e. a physical limitation that may affect their driving capabilities such as bad vision, a stiff neck, a hip replacement, knee problems, even heart problems or diabetes which can eventually affect vision.
- Use a personal reason i.e. blame yourself for not wanting them to drive any longer. Explain that you are struggling with anxiety and worry over their safety and would feel better if they took a break for a while. Suggest that they ‘do it for you’ for your own peace-of-mind.
- Offer your help when it comes to getting around. Make sure to give your loved one the option of still being able to ‘run errands’, visit friends, get to appointments etc. Let them know that they still have their freedom because you are willing to help wherever you can.
2. Disable the vehicle
This is a more hands-on approach but may be 100% necessary if the above suggestions just aren’t cutting it. Depending on the year and make of the vehicle you can disable the battery so the car is not going anywhere. For more modern, keyless cars, the battery can be entirely removed by the car dealership or a local mechanic. For older vehicles, simply disconnect the battery cables.
If this seems too drastic, simply lock the car keys away in a safe place your loved one will not be able to access.
3. Remove the vehicle entirely
This is another simple way of resolving the issue of dementia and driving: completely removing the vehicle. You can tell your loved one that you inspected the vehicle and noticed that it needed some repair or maintenance work done. Let them know you’ve handled it for them and taken it to a mechanic who needs a couple of weeks to complete the job. Initially, they may ask after the car, but over time it’s highly likely your loved one will forget and stop asking.
Just remember not to tell your loved one that the car has been stolen – this could stir up feelings of anxiety and fear and cause them to report the vehicle as stolen! This could only cause more stress on your end.