The day has come, and you really hoped that you had more time. Your siblings have come to you to remind you of your assignment: to take Dad’s car keys away because it has become too dangerous for him to drive.
One other caveat makes this decision even more difficult: your dad has dementia and struggles with remembering the sudden changes that occur in his life. What do you do to make this transition easier for him?
It’s old fashion, but the American dream has to do with freedoms which often translate in our ability to drive our own cars. Once someone takes our car keys, it’s a huge blow in our ability to have control over our lives. It’s an even bigger struggle for someone with dementia because they may not understand what type of danger their driving imposes on others.
Here are a few ways to make it a little easier to take the keys away from a loved one with dementia:
Once you’ve decided to take the keys away, do not be wishy washy about it. Chances are, that with dementia, your loved ones driving skills will not spontaneously improve over time.
Even though this exact same discussion will probably come up over and over again due to decreased memory, have a forthright and honest discussion with your loved one about why it’s no longer safe for them to drive. If it helps for them to hear it from a professional, have your loved one also consult with a doctor and a driving specialist.
Conceal the car.
Now that you’ve taken the keys away, place your loved ones car out-of-sight. This could mean parking it at another family member or friend’s house so that your loved one isn’t constantly reminded about their inability to drive just by seeing their car every day.
Put safety locks on other vehicles.
If there are other vehicles and car keys that your loved one can access, such as another family member’s car, make sure you place lock features on your car and keep the car keys away from their hands. Just because their car is gone does not mean that they will not attempt driving someone else’s vehicle.
Give alternative methods of control to your loved one.
Remember, driving is an expression of freedom and control. In order to make this easier, make sure that your loved one still has control over other things in their life. That include running their own errands with the driving assist of a family member, commuting to community events in other modes of transportation, or even still independently participating in tasks at home.
No, it’s not going to be easy. In fact, it’s going to be absolutely hear-breaking. However, for the safety of your loved ones and others, prepare to recognize the signs and kindly take away the keys when it’s time.