My generally healthy (but diabetic) mother was recently told to stop driving. She wants her car back, badly.

4 answers | Last updated: Nov 14, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My 80 yr old mother who is in generally good health and is mentally fit, has recently been told by two eye doctors that due to diabetic retinopathy vision problems which can no longer be corrected, she should no longer be driving. She initially seemed to be ok with this and we lent her car to a family member who is still using it. Now, she has begun to complain to everyone in the family that she wants her car back and insists she is capable of seeing well enough to do her short daytime drives to the store, etc. She still has an active license and is not due to be renewed for close to 2 yrs. All of the family members, including our father, believe that her sight is very limited based on our observance of her daily activities. We recognize that this is really an issue of access to independence. We are very concerned about her mental health as she continues to argue that she is capable of driving, but will not agree to go to the Registry to have her eyesight re-tested. We want to be sensitive to her situation, do not want to give her access to a car, and are not sure how to have this converation with her in a sensitive, non-argumentative way. She is not lacking for access to rides by friends and family. There is no easy access to public transportation. But, she feels she is in prison as she is no longer in control of her comings and goings and has been very independent. She tells us very clearly that she will go crazy unless she gets her car back. My siblings and I want to address this in an appropriate supportive way. What do you suggest.


Expert Answers

Elizabeth Dugan, a Fellow of the Gerontology Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston, is the author of Driving Dilemma: The Complete Resource Guide for Older Drivers and Their Families.

The vision standards for driving fitness are set at the state level and vary state by state.  I'd recommend checking to see what her state's regulations are. Her vision impairment may clearly place her in the "unsafe and not legal to drive" category and that will make the discussion about whether she can drive or not moot.

But her emotional reaction is normal and understandable.  We don't have great options when you stop driving and I'm sure she does feel like a prisoner (or a bird with the wings clipped as another person described it).  Acknowledge and honor her frustration with the situation.  But then remind her that she has had to overcome other losses and setbacks over her life.  She has the coping skills and support to make it.  This is another challenge that will require grace to get over.  Ask her to think about ways that would make her feel less dependent on others for rides (e.g., maybe a standing 4 hour block (Tuesdays 10-2) when someone will drive her places).

It can be hard to hear the frustration, pain, and maybe even fear that she feels.  But talking openly and frankly will be helpful for her and your family. None of us looks forward to the day when we are dependent -- we need kindness, love, reassurance and support to navigate this new terrain.


Community Answers

Elizabeth dugan answered...

The vision standards for driving fitness are set at the state level and vary state by state.  I'd recommend checking to see what her state's regulations are. Her vision impairment may clearly place her in the "unsafe and not legal to drive" category and that will make the discussion about whether she can drive or not moot.

But her emotional reaction is normal and understandable.  We don't have great options when you stop driving and I'm sure she does feel like a prisoner (or a bird with the wings clipped as another person described it).  Acknowledge and honor her frustration with the situation.  But then remind her that she has had to overcome other losses and setbacks over her life.  She has the coping skills and support to make it.  This is another challenge that will require grace to get over.  Ask her to think about ways that would make her feel less dependent on others for rides (e.g., maybe a standing 4 hour block (Tuesdays 10-2) when someone will drive her places).

It can be hard to hear the frustration, pain, and maybe even fear that she feels.  But talking openly and frankly will be helpful for her and your family. None of us looks forward to the day when we are dependent -- we need kindness, love, reassurance and support to navigate this new terrain.


Judith16 answered...

I understand that your family is very conserned about the well bwing of your mother and will not let her drive due to her eye sight condition. First of all I don't recommended fo anyone to argue with her and to tell her she can not see very well even though it might be true, due to her mental health. My mother who has diabetes was also losing her eye sightbut a doctor recommended us to take natural supplements. So we did and now my mom can see better even though other doctors told us this problem could not be fixed. I highly recommend this. This will not also help her eye sight but her diabetec health as well as mentally. If you or anyone els has a questio on this I'd be very happy to answer any. You may contact me at 720-277-1682.


Pokerpoodle answered...

Your mother's eye doctor may have had photographs of your mother's retina taken. The doctor or his or her technician may be able to show you a photograph of a normal retina and a photograph of your mother's retina. Diabetic Retinopathy does not show on the outside so it is hard to believe how real it is, but the scar tissue and bleeding from it are easy to see once you can see inside the eye. This is not something that can be made better by any supplements. There are treatments the doctor may have done to postpone the loss of sight, but once the retina is destroyed, it cannot grow back.