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WWYD re: Elderly Parent


PinkTulip
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Background: My mom is 84 and has lived alone for 21 years since my dad passed away. She is fiercely independent and spends most of her day out and about, going to lunch and dinner with friends and social groups. She is in moderately ok health, although my sister and I both agree that she could use some more help at home than either of us can give, so the solution has been my nephew & his wife have been living with her. 

Last night my mom made a left turn, missed going around the median, and drove on the wrong side of the road for about half a mile. My nephew’s wife was in the car with her and was freaking out, but tried to be relatively calm and polite (they are newlyweds). This is quite a busy road and cars were pulling over to avoid hitting them. Also, there were several opportunities to either pull into the parking lot of a business, or get onto the right side at 2 intersections, but my mom kept going until she turned left to get home. 

Obviously, this is the final straw and my mom cannot be driving anymore, for her safety and for the safety of everyone else on the road. Taking away her keys will cause World War 3, which I am willing to engage in to keep everyone safe, but I’m wondering if there might be another solution. Can I call the police, explain to them what happened, and ask them to go talk to her? She will definitely not listen to my sister nor I, and she will either deny it happened or downplay it. I’m willing to go take her keys if needed, but I’m hoping there might be another solution I haven’t thought of. 

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26 minutes ago, Patty Joanna said:

One thing that strikes me--the most vulnerable person in WW3 is the nephew's wife.  Newlywed, helping out, not yet totally blended into family, etc...  She did nothing wrong but I would expect that she will experience the most fall-out as a tattle-tale.  I'd do whatever you can to protect her...  Maybe Mom's doctor could give her this advice based on "what he has observed in the cognitive exam."   IDK.  

I totally agree with this - we are trying to protect my nephew’s wife from the fallout. Neither my sister nor I have brought it up with my mom yet, we’re just formulating plans this weekend to put into action on Monday, with a way to get the message through without telling her the wife told us  

My mom thinks her doctor is an idiot, so I don’t think that’s the best route. (Very opinionated and critical of most people) Right now I’m leaning towards having the police visit her because that is a role that she would respect. 

Ugh - to reaffirm the other recent threads, being the sandwich generation is hard! 

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My elderly neighbor's dependable car mysteriously "broke" one day, and her handy son who knew everything about cars just gosh-darn couldn't figure out how to fix it. Her daughter had moved in to keep an eye on her, and she died within a couple months, so they were really in tune with the state of her health and making sure she had her out-of-house needs met. I generally prefer being up-front and honest, but the son and daughter were too, and desperate times and all...

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8 minutes ago, PinkTulip said:

  Right now I’m leaning towards having the police visit her because that is a role that she would respect. 

 

 

 

I  have no idea if they would do this or not, but if they would say that her little escapade had been reported via her license plate, that would lend some additional authority. I mean, I actually can't believe it WASN'T reported! I've called 911 to report lesser dangers. 

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16 minutes ago, Beth S said:

Another avenue is to replace her driver's license with a state ID.

That may not help much.  I had an 89 year old neighbor who could not get his driver's license renewed because of poor eyesight.  He drove anyway.  He said,"What are they going to do to an 89 year old if they find me driving without a license?  Throw me in jail?"  

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Why not just be honest with her? She drove half a mile on the wrong side of the street. It’s time for her to stop driving. She may be upset with you about it, but you don’t have many other options if she has become a danger to herself and others when she drives. 

Frankly, I think it would be mean and possibly traumatic for her to have the police show up at her house. I would exhaust every other possible option before resorting to that.

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I think you could show up, tell her that a friend of yours recognized her driving down the wrong side of the street and recommended you take her to get checked.  If she doesn't like her doctor you can try a different one, but no more driving until a doctor gives her permission with YOU there.  Then take the keys, and disable the car by disconnecting the battery and spark plugs.  This both takes the focus off the new in law, and gives you a good reason to go with her to get a neurological exam to rule out dementia.  If she has dementia you want to get her involved in the decisions about where to move and when while she's still able to make them herself. And if she just has a UTI and will be able to drive fine again after a course of antibiotics, you'll know that too.

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I think that I would call the police and ask what would have happened if she had been reported or pulled over at the time.  This could have been enough for a steep fine or more.  I would use that as leverage when speaking to mom about perhaps taking the driver license.  I'm absolutely dreading doing this to my mom.  It was pretty easy for my dad to give it up because my mom still drives.  However, the day that my mom stops driving, I don't even want to think about it.  She proudly tells my kids (repeatedly) about how she started driving.

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I’m listening...hoping to learn how to get Dad to stop driving. He is NOT a safe driver and he knows that and limits himself to driving when traffic in his town is low. He knows he should stop but he won’t. We’ve tried to talk to him and appealed to his doc to intervene.  The doc questioned us and said if he hasn’t had several accidents or tickets he’s probably still ok to drive like he is.  He’s had neither but that doesn’t mean he’s safe! And no way would Dad fall for ‘the car is broken’. How do you take away keys from an adult who owns the vehicle? 

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5 minutes ago, Annie G said:

I’m listening...hoping to learn how to get Dad to stop driving. He is NOT a safe driver and he knows that and limits himself to driving when traffic in his town is low. He knows he should stop but he won’t. We’ve tried to talk to him and appealed to his doc to intervene.  The doc questioned us and said if he hasn’t had several accidents or tickets he’s probably still ok to drive like he is.  He’s had neither but that doesn’t mean he’s safe! And no way would Dad fall for ‘the car is broken’. How do you take away keys from an adult who owns the vehicle? 

 

If he knows he’s not a safe driver, can you talk to him about how he would feel if he was driving around the neighborhood and a little kid darted out in front of him, and your dad’s reflexes were too slow to stop in time? 

Don't make it about your father’s safety, but about the safety of a kid crossing the street or a family in a minivan, or a mom and her kids stepping in front of his car in a parking lot.

Do you think that might help?

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2 minutes ago, Catwoman said:

 

If he knows he’s not a safe driver, can you talk to him about how he would feel if he was driving around the neighborhood and a little kid darted out in front of him, and your dad’s reflexes were too slow to stop in time? 

Don't make it about your father’s safety, but about the safety of a kid crossing the street or a family in a minivan, or a mom and her kids stepping in front of his car in a parking lot.

Do you think that might help?

That’s what we did- my two sisters and I spent the weekend w dad and tried to get his paperwork organized and talk to him about things. He’s not cooperative at all, and didn’t respond well to that discussion. We tried several times and he stormed out of the room each time. It’s loss of independence that is upsetting him, even though one of my sisters sees him every day and can (and does) drive him when needed. But several times a week he goes out alone and doesn’t tell her he’s going. 

It’s frightening. In the blink of an eye he could lose all his money. If he hits someone and gets sued...in Georgia minimum auto coverage is alarmingly low and his personal assets are at risk.  Which is nothing compared to what the family of the person he hit would go through. 

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Been there, done that on this one.

I would not even bother with discussions about other people's safety.  People that drive when it's not safe - drunk, infirm, whatever - care more about their own "rights" and what they want more than they do about others.  Call it what you want - it's stupid selfishness.

Disabling the car *might* work - for a while - until the selfish person pays to have it towed and repaired.  We went through this with my father.  In spite of passing out at the wheel multiple times while driving and running into things because he could not see well enough to drive, he still refused to give up his car because it was "his right" to drive.  His insurance company dropped him after too many accidents.  He drove without insurance.  We had his doctor sign a form and had his license revoked by the state unless he could pass a drivers test (he could not) - he still drove.  My brother even convinced him to leave the car at brother's house and brother or his wife would drop everything and come chauffeur him whenever he wanted. Father called the police and reported the car stolen.  Brother explained to the police what was going on and it was ok, but there really was nothing more we could do except walk away after that.

Advise nephew and wife to refuse to get into her car when she is driving.  Period.  They need to protect themselves from her.

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This is why we drive an old, but very nice, Buick sedan. My husband arrived back in the states at the same time his granny needed to stop driving (all, she'd probably been unsafe a while at that point.) Dh's mom told granny "your grandson desperately needs an affordable car and you know how impossible it is to find one these days" and told dh "You are buying granny's car." Do you have any young relatives who might "desperately" need a car?

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Thanks all, I appreciate everyone’s input on this. I hadn’t thought about the stress having a police officer show up would induce, so thank you for helping me think through that. 

I do like the idea of telling her a friend of mine saw her while she waa driving the wrong way - it’s technically the truth (I love my nephew’s wife!), and is a good gateway to starting the conversation. The problem with coming outright and saying that his wife told us is that my mom can be very vindictive when pushed and I can easily see her being outright mean to this cute 20-something who has only been married and in the family for just over a month. I won’t put my new niece in that position. 

My sister and I have made plans to pick my mom up tomorrow and take her to church and then to my sister’s house for dinner after. We will have the hard conversation then. Honestly, I don’t see it going well, but the alternative of doing nothing is just not an option. 

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Was this the first time she made a bad driving move? Or was this in a series of bad driving moves? Because unless there is more than one incident, the doctor nor the authorities will generally take a license away. If this has happened a lot, you can bring it up with the doctor and the doctor can do an exam and chose to suspend her license.

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We told my dad that we couldn’t ride with him or let him drive with our sons in the car anymore.  We couldn’t stop him from driving but we hoped that we knew we wouldn’t make that decision for no reason or lightly and that he would stop driving before he hurt himself or someone else.  He wasn’t happy, but he stopped driving. Fortunately, he lives in a very densely populated area which makes the logistics of driving- insurance, parking, traffic more challenging than riding the bus or train.  He’s been able to soften the blow by framing it as an environmental and financial decision + he’s able to still get around without a car.   

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1 hour ago, Janeway said:

Was this the first time she made a bad driving move? Or was this in a series of bad driving moves? Because unless there is more than one incident, the doctor nor the authorities will generally take a license away. If this has happened a lot, you can bring it up with the doctor and the doctor can do an exam and chose to suspend her license.

This is definitely the most extreme, but there have been a lot of little things in the last few years - like straddling lanes when driving down the road (“I’m getting over!”),  driving so close to the side that she sideswiped a garbage can (“it was too far out in the road!”), etc. My sister & I are constantly having the conversation of when will mom be at that point, but we are definitely there now. 

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That's a hard situation to be in, and we're in it right now with my mother.  She's never had a ticket or been in an accident and seems to actually do okay on the road, but she's losing her short-term memory and is extremely frail.  (She's 90.)   We don't know how she does it still.  Our dd is staying with my parents temporarily, and she knows not to be a passenger in my mother's car.  We've helped her come up with different ways to word it.  My father, on the other hand, is also 90 but a very good driver still.  However, he doesn't drive at night anymore and avoids freeways now during rush hour.

To be honest, I've never understood that type of fierce independence in people.  I'm in my 50's, and I already can hardly wait to downsize and not have to worry about a yard and home maintenance, and I really don't like driving very much.  Once we move to the metro area, I hope to use public transportation and Uber as much as possible.  Or just walk everywhere.

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I am trying to figure out what to do about my dad.  He should not be driving.  I am going to try to call his eye doctor, but not sure he will talk to me.  I *think* there is a way to contact the DMV and request they send a letter to renew early, someone had mentioned that to me, so I need to look into it further.  

And I don't live near them.  I am an only child.  And my mom doesn't drive.  UGH.

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That is so hard.  We went through this with my grandfather years ago.  Somehow, at age 90, he still passed the "exam" the state requires for renewing his license.  But he was absolutely not OK to drive and we tried everything to get him to stop.  Eventually he had had so many accidents that he could no longer get car insurance, which was what ended the driving. Nothing we or his doctors said could convince him.  Luckily no one was hurt during the many accidents.  But they sure wrecked a lot of peoples' days.

Ironically, we are now dealing with the same thing with my mom.....the same woman who had to deal with grandpa.  She does not seem tor recognize that her driving is dangerous and that perhaps it is not normal to have "little mishaps," as she calls them, every few weeks.  They are mostly from parking miscalculations but sometimes she does not even know where the latest scrape or dent came from.  I suspect she has hit cars (and who knows what else) and not even noticed.  The car looks like a crowd threw blowing balls at it from all sides.  Sigh.  Disabling the car is our last resort but she may remember that failed trick when we attempted this with grandpa's car.  And she is on a very limited income.  I don't need her shelling out for tow trucks only to find that we disconnected something.  I have mentioned the parallel from grandpa's situation but she claims her situation is completely different and that she is a fine driver.

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4 hours ago, llllll said:

All I can say is that if you think it's time, then it's probably way PAST time to do it.  That happened with my grandparents.  My father and his siblings kept talking about taking away his car because his driving was obviously getting worse.  But, before they actually worked up the gumption to DO it (he could be ... difficult ... and he was fiercly independent), he and my grandmother were driving down the interstate and crashed into a car that had stopped in the middle of their lane (out of gas?  don't remember).  My grandmother ended up in the hospital and my grandfather died of a heart attack shortly after the wreck.  Apparently, my grandfather couldn't tell the car wasn't moving.  

Good luck.

 

I’m so sorry about your grandfather. ?

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Ugh. This is so hard. When FIL was showing signs of dementia and clearly shouldn't have been driving anymore, MIL asked my husband to disable the car to buy some time. So he took out a spark plug or something. When the car wouldn't start the next morning, FIL called AAA, got the part replaced, and was on his jolly way. Later he was found wandering the side of a highway four hours away with the car in a ditch. Aging is hard on everyone. ?

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53 minutes ago, Hyacinth said:

Ugh. This is so hard. When FIL was showing signs of dementia and clearly shouldn't have been driving anymore, MIL asked my husband to disable the car to buy some time. So he took out a spark plug or something. When the car wouldn't start the next morning, FIL called AAA, got the part replaced, and was on his jolly way. Later he was found wandering the side of a highway four hours away with the car in a ditch. Aging is hard on everyone. ?

That's terrible.  I'm sorry.

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In our experience, MIL’s doctor would not touch the problem of driving.

In California there is a state authority you can call to report an unsafe senior driver, but I did call in one case and after several months there had been no consequences, so I would not rely on that, because you need something to happen quickly.

For my MIL there was no solution except having her move to where we are (different state) and the car was left behind.

I would explain to her what the problem is, having taken away the keys already so you don’t get into a shoving match over them; also  have nephew & wife hide their own keys when not in use. This will be really hard but it concerns everyone’s safety. ?

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