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Dealing with Hard Topics: The Driving Discussion

When a person develops dementia, many aspects of his or her life start to change. They might have trouble with memory loss and need more help doing basic tasks. A big change that the family should be prepared for is when the person can no longer drive. 

Driving is viewed as an essential part of a person’s independence. Since it’s so important, bringing up the subject that he or she should not drive is sensitive and can be tricky. Overall, safety and well-being is the main concern. Having this discussion will not be easy, but it is necessary and many families have had to do it.   

“When approaching this conversation, don’t procrastinate. This is a difficult talk to have, but it’s for your loved one’s safety and the safety of other drivers,” says Steve Carney, Wellness Coordinator/Administrator of Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. “It would be much worse to put off this conversation and then have an accident happen.”

Signs That Show Driving Difficulty

There are certain things to look for that signal a person with dementia can’t drive safely anymore. Check to see if they are:

  • Having trouble turning to look in blind spots or when parking.
  • Experiencing confusion or frustration while driving.
  • Getting lost in familiar surroundings.
  • Having a difficult time trying to turn the steering wheel.
  • Failing to yield to pedestrians or other drivers.

The Discussion

When having this discussion, remember to be calm, kind and understanding. This is a tough topic and needs to be handled with care.

  • Start the conversation and address your concerns. Inform your family that this is happening and get everyone on the same page in case you need their help.
  • Put the conversation in the context of love and support. Don’t sound like you’re making this decision for them or taking something away.
  • Show how driving would be irresponsible and dangerous. If they’re getting lost or having trouble obeying traffic laws, point out how these behaviors are not safe.
  • If the doctor has recommended the person with dementia to stop driving, address that to back up your side. Having a medical professional’s opinion might help convince your loved one.
  • Keep in mind that this might be the start of many driving discussions. This could possibly be a series of discussions and it might take time for your loved one to agree with you. 

If The Discussion Doesn’t Go Well

There’s a possibility that this discussion will be tough to get through for everyone involved. If it doesn’t go in a positive direction, keep these tips in mind:

  • Remember to be patient, but firm. Show your loved one that you’re coming from a place of empathy and concern. Try to understand why they are taking a particular stance.
  • Ask another family member to help convey the message that the person’s driving isn’t safe. If you are having trouble convincing your loved one, consider bringing in another family member to help convey the message.
  • Don’t get discouraged or blame yourself, especially if the person has strong negative reactions. Dementia can cause changes in personality and judgment.
  • If this discussion goes nowhere, a last resort would be to take away the keys or the car. This should only be done if the person with dementia repeatedly refuses to stop driving.
  • Plan alternative and reliable forms of transportation. Coordinate family members, friends or a transportation service to take over. Another option is to have medicine and groceries delivered to the house, taking away the need to have a car.

When it’s time for a loved one to stop driving, the stress of the upcoming discussion can be overwhelming. Having a plan for this conversation and knowing what points should be made will help ease this stress.

“Have an idea of what you want to say and always remember to be understanding and patient. It might not be the most comfortable conversation, but in the end it’s all in your loved one’s best interest,” says Steve.

Keep the family informed of what is happening and ready just in case your loved one needs their help. One positive thing to come from this is a possible opportunity for more quality time together. Going out to get groceries could be an afternoon outing and will get your loved one out of the house.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment.

Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comforts of home. Our community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family. 

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again.

For more information, please call Sharon at (484) 380-5404 or contact us online. 

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.