How do we convince our dad, who has Alzheimer's, that he isn't allowed to drive any more?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 12, 2016
Jewely62 asked...

Our father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's two years ago and is still in denial that anything is wrong with him. Last Thanksgiving he got into a heated argument with our brother (his son) while visiting one of our sisters in Colorado. He packed up his things and his dog and drove home. He wouldn't answer his cell phone for anyone except for our sister in Phoenix where they both live. She would call him every couple of hours and ask him where he was. His descriptions of his surroundings were correct for the time frame he had driven from call to call. The last conversation she had with him, he was coming up to the exit on the freeway to his house. That was on Friday after Thanksgiving. We assumed he made it home okay until we got a call from one of his friends at church that he didn't make it to church on the following Sunday. We thought maybe he was tired from the long trip home. Our sister went to his house after she got out of church on the same Sunday and found that he hadn't been home at all. The panic set in as we decided to call the police. Just then, the police came up to the house before we had a chance to call. It turns out that he showed up in another town about 60 miles southeast of his home. He didn't know where he was and someone at the restaurant he had parked at noticed that he had been there a long time and looked confused. They called the police and they sent a specialist out to help him. He swore to the officer he knew where he was and that he was in Yuma but in fact he was in Tempe. The officer showed him his shoulder patch that said Tempe. After we arrived, the officer briefed us on the situation and told dad to hand over his keys to our sisters husband. We decided to park the car at another sisters house so that he wouldn't drive until he got the okay from his doctor. Well, his doctor said that he needs to give up the driving because he had been missing for two days and the police were involved in the incident. Ever since then his denial has become more insistent and that we have now stolen his car and that no one said he couldn't drive. Do we need to obtain documentation to support the fact that he isn't allowed to drive because of his mental condition that he only denies having? What can we do to convince him it's alright to stop driving?

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

The Dept of Motor Vehicles (at least in NY state) has a form that can be completed by your father's physician with recommendations on his drivers license and his ability to drive safely, or there is also another form that can be completed anonymously to have an individual's driver's license reviewed. When having a conversation with your father, he may not acknowledge that his, and others' safety may be at risk by him continuing to drive. Input from an MD may be helpful in keeping family out of the equation. It is also important to gather information on public transportation or senior ride services that might be available in your area, as these may keep him as independent as possible. Good luck!

Ca-claire answered...

Hi Jewely62 - How well I understand both your side/Dr.'s side and your Father's side of the story. Each situation is different, with it's own history. Print out the form from your state's DMV site, to have your Dr. report to the DMV that your Father needs to stop driving. You can also report your Father to the DMV, and in most states, if a family reports, it is confidential unless a lawyer subpoena's the records.

If DMV send back an automatic suspension of your Father's driver's license, take him in to the DMV, have him turn in his license and get the DMV issued Identification card. This way he won't have a driver's license in his wallet that makes him think he can still drive, just an ID that will allow him to have a government issued photo ID.

Rather than telling him he no longer can drive (emphasizing the negative), try to emphasize the positive - Dad - we get to take you places, just like a chauffeur would. Make sure that someone is available a couple times a week to take him places to shop or eat.

What we did, was transfer Dad's car to my name (family gift - no charge) for liability reasons, then whenever I need to take him somewhere, I take that car, and he talks about he still has his 'good' car, but now it's got a driver with it! We did not share with him that the title of the car is no longer in his name. When Dad is gone, I will sell the car, and get a vehicle that I would prefer to have.

This is one of the hardest situations you will have, outside of hospice care, with your parents. It's not easy, but the public safety is at stake, not just your parent's. Best wishes to you!

A fellow caregiver answered...

He will probably never be convinced he is not supposed to drive. Keep the car keys hidden and change the subject when it is brought up. If he has a chance to get the keys to any car, he will drive it. People with this disease are not able to process the information correctly no matter how it is presented to them.