by Steve Brooks, WCHA
Ten years ago, our aging, yet fiercely independent, mother wanted to drive beyond what we what we felt comfortable. It was only a mile down the road to her favorite cafe and grocery store, but her eyesight, hearing and onset of dementia presented a clear danger to herself and others.
My brother and I thought taking her to lunch in a crowded restaurant would be a good chance to discuss it with her, but we were ill-prepared for her resistance about suggesting she give up her keys. We tried to reason that our sister, who lived nearby, had volunteered to run all her errands, but she only became more angry…and loud. At the end of the meal, though, she reluctantly gave us her keys.
Unknown to us, she had a spare set of keys and was driving again the next day. We gave the subject a rest for a week or so, then decided to disable her car by removing the battery. But the next day she was driving again after calling AAA to “fix” her car. It wasn’t until she was hospitalized with pneumonia that she quit driving for the last time.
Another story is about a friend who mysteriously started getting into solo car accidents. After a doctor determined that he had early onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, the police took away his license. Because of a glitch at DMV, he was able to walk in and procure another one, only to get into yet another accident. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.
There are many elderly drivers out on the road today that clearly shouldn’t be behind the wheel, representing a danger to themselves, their passengers, innocent bystanders, property, insurance rates, etc.
What we’ve learned since those personally scary moments is that the DMV has changed its rulings regarding senior drivers, at least in California:
- Drivers age 70 or older must appear in person to renew their driver’s license. They can’t renew by mail or internet.
- If there’s an unsafe driver report by a law enforcement officer, physician or family member, the senior must submit to a driving test. The DMV’s REQUEST FOR DRIVER REEXAMINATION form can be submitted anonymously by family members.
- Friends and physicians of the elderly driver can provide the most valuable, objective input about quitting driving. Explain the problem to them and try to enlist their help.
Heartfelt regards during a difficult process, WeCare Home Assistants.