Caregivers are put in a difficult situation when they feel their loved one is no longer safe to operate a vehicle, yet the older adults insist they are fine. This loss of independence can be devastating to many. How do you insist that your aging loved one stop driving – for their safety as well as the safety of others?
In this video, Geriatric Psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Weiss gives examples and real-life scenarios for tackling this difficult situation.
Unsafe driving is a serious issue. Unfortunately, when your care recipient has lost the cognitive ability to drive, but refuses to stop driving, and you have tried:
- Holding repeated conversations to ask them to stop
- Showing proof they’re no longer safe drivers
- Proving they are a danger to themselves and others when they drive
- Calling a family meeting so it’s not just coming from you
- Reassuring them that they’ll still be able to go out
If your older adult still refuses to stop driving, you might be forced to use one of the methods below. They might seem extreme, but they’re effective and other families and caregivers have had success with these options:
Anonymously report them to the DMV and have their driver’s license revoked
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) allows people to report unsafe drivers, often anonymously. You don’t have to be a doctor, anyone can file a report. The benefit is that your older adult won’t blame you for taking their license away. Instead, they’ll be angry with the DMV. Many seniors give up the fight when their driver’s license is revoked. Others will give up the fight after you use some of these creative ways to get rid of or disable their car.
Use Alzheimer’s or dementia forgetfulness to your advantage.
Alzheimer’s or dementia can cause seniors to become irrational and stubborn about driving. In these situations, an effective strategy is to remove the car and any reminders of driving. At the same time, creatively distract them from the topic until they forget about driving altogether. This approach spares them from angry confrontations or getting depressed about not being allowed to drive.
Have a relative or close friend “borrow” the car.
If your older adult’s car isn’t in the garage, they won’t be able to drive it. To keep them from getting suspicious, you could arrange for a relative or close friend to borrow the car. For example, the relative could pretend that their own car is in the shop for major repairs. If it’s a young relative, they could say they need a car for school or a job. When the car is out of sight or unavailable for a good reason, your older adult may be more willing to give up driving. You don’t have to actually give the car away. That’s just a cover story to get the car out of their sight. After that, it’s your decision to keep, sell, or give away the car.
Hide or “lose” the car keys.
Another way to keep your older adult from driving is to hide the car keys or pretend they’re lost. It’s best to do this while they’re asleep, so they won’t suspect that you’ve taken them. If they ask you where the keys are, pretend that you have no idea. You could even help them look and, after searching the house, declare the keys hopelessly lost. Say that you’ll get a new set, but it could take a while.
Take the car for repairs.
Pretending that the car is having a problem is another effective method. Tell your older adult that the car is at the auto shop for repairs. This gets the car away from the house – similar to having a relative borrow it. Your senior may ask why the car has been in the shop for so long. Be prepared to say something like:
- A repair part hasn’t arrived yet
- The repairs cost more than the car is worth
- The mechanic says the car can’t be fixed
Disable the car
A good way to prevent someone from driving is to disable their car. Do something simple like unplugging the battery or locking the steering wheel with a “Club.” Even if they managed to get the keys, they still wouldn’t be able to drive a disabled car.
Sell the car
Selling their car is another way of making sure your older adult can no longer drive. Make up a story for why this is necessary. For example, you might say that a close relative needs money and this is the only way to help. You don’t have to actually sell the car if you don’t want to, but this is another way to get it out of sight for a seemingly legitimate reason.
Hide your own car and car keys
If your car is still available, your older adult might try to take your keys and drive your car. If that’s happening, make sure to hide your own keys and park your car out of their sight. Whenever you need to go out, you can say that a friend is giving you a ride or that you’re taking public transportation.
We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
For more resources, subscribe to our free eNewsletter!