Driving Demented

2607744709_d8eca6e2771So my mom is pissed. After gradually trying to limit mom’s access to the car, my dad has finally taken a huge step and banned her from the car all together. On giant step for my family! OK, yes… the woman should not drive, but taking away the keys can be (and was in our case) incredibly difficult and devastating for the individual losing their freedom, especially in a car-friendly city like Phoenix.

Needless to say, my mom was so mad she decided that she was going to buy a car from a friend at church! Trust me, I have no idea how this transaction would have transpired—especially since there was already some miscommunication. She kept telling me the “they” were going to sell her a car for $1 or $2. Very good deal. I really didn’t think much of these conversations until she told me Felipo—I had never heard her mention this person before—was coming to our house with a car, and no doubt his hard-earned payment of $1. I begged my mom to give me Felipo’s number and then sternly informed Filipo’s wife that her husband should not be selling cars to demented people.

Although it has only been a couple of weeks since losing her right to drive, she hasn’t forgotten that she’s no longer allowed behind the wheel. She calls me sometimes, and in this sneaky-sounding voice says: “Your husband, I mean my dad, I mean my husband won’t let me have the car. I’m a good driver. I don’t know why your husband is treating me like this. I’m going to buy my own car.”

God, why can’t she just forget about the car? Forget the car stupid already! It’s like she has selective dementia!

For most of us, the car is a huge issue. That said, I wanted to share this information from the Alzheimer’s Association’s website about driving. There are some great tips when it comes time to take away the keys. This is really never easy and you may face a pretty fierce fight—my own mom is pretty stubborn about this still! But stick to your guns: driving demented is incredibly dangerous—to your parent and to other innocent drivers on the road.

Think: “Is this pedal the gas or the break?” Not the question anyone should be asking themselves going 50 miles an hour, least of all your demented parent.

Some tips below, and you can find more suggestions on the Alzheimer Association’s page dedicated to driving.

And if YOU have some helpful tips when it comes to the driving issue, please share with MDM! This is one of those things where you really need all the help you can get.

Alz.org’s tips to limit driving:

  • Transition driving responsibilities to others. Tell the person you can drive, arrange for someone else to drive, or arrange a taxi service or special transportation services for older adults.
  • Find ways to reduce the person’s need to drive. Have prescription medicines, groceries or meals delivered.
  • Experiment with ways to distract the person from driving. Mention that someone else should drive because you’re taking a new route, because driving conditions are dangerous, or because he or she is tired and needs to rest. You may also want to arrange for another person to sit in the back seat to distract the person while someone else drives.
  • Control access to the car keys. Designate one person who will do all the driving and give that individual exclusive access to the car keys.
  • Disable the car. Remove the distributor cap or the battery or starter wire. Ask a mechanic to install a “kill wire” that will prevent the car from starting unless the switch is thrown. Or give the person a set of keys that looks like his or her old set, but that don’t work to start the car.


  1. too well i remember this scenario…God bless my folk’s doctor who advised us to let him take the heat. he said it was his call because of meds. but that didn’t stop my dad from choking up from tears every time there would be a discussion that would involve his inability to drive. he loved going to the resale shop, or to the grocery store or anywhere for that matter. it was just the loss of dignity and independence…and it still hurts to this day even tho he’s been gone for four months. hang in there – you have to pick your battles.

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