beyond the video

Driving: Dealing with an Emotional Issue

A profile of one driver that offers an understanding of why others with Alzheimer's have so much difficulty giving up the keys.



Video summary
This video focuses initially on Russell, whose driver's license has been suspended for medical reasons. As his daughter notes, although he has significant memory loss, he never forgets that he is no longer allowed to drive, and is persistent in trying to get that privilege restored. He goes regularly to the licensing registry and to his doctor hoping his privileges will be restored. When told he must take a driver's test, he expresses confidence he could pass it, but because he thinks he is still improving and wants to be at his best, he delays making an appointment for the test, a decision reinforced as wise by his doctor.

The rest of the video shows other families dealing with the same issue. Family members tend to look to their physicians or a government body such as the Department of Motor Vehicles to make the judgment that their loved one can't drive, because as Kathleen says, it doesn't work well for family members to be seen as "the bad guy." Physicians aren't always willing to be the bad guy either, and as experts have noted, sometimes the people who administer road tests give older drivers a break that is not in the driver's best interest.

Family members frequently try a number of ploys to make giving up driving easier for their loved one, such as:

  • Hiding the keys
  • Disabling the car (with a club or by a more subtle means)
  • Moving the car out of sight (such as to someone else's garage)
  • Selling the car (sometimes saying it was too expensive to repair)
  • Getting a note from the doctor saying because of the person's medications he or she shouldn't drive

Because people with dementia remain individuals, what works for one person will not necessarily work for another.

Applying the video to your own situation
As Debbie (the woman in blue) notes, most families have a hard time facing the issue of stopping their loved one from driving, in part because they see how important driving is to the person's self-image, and in part because "not driving" tends to force the family member to take on a whole new set of responsibilities. Debbie is adamant about telling family members to face this particular change as soon as possible, because it could end up saving someone's life.

Nevertheless, because it often does entail a new set of responsibilities - not just getting the person with dementia to doctor's appointments and the grocery store, but to social events that keep her from becoming isolated- we encourage you to enlist all the help you can from family, neighbors and friends. Often, this is just the sort of concrete aid they have been eager to give.

Beyond the Video

When Russell is told he must take a driver's test, he expresses confidence he could pass it, but because he thinks he is still improving and wants to be at his best, he delays making an appointment for the test, a decision reinforced as wise by his doctor.