My mother refuses to give up her car keys, what can we to so make her stop driving?

4 answers | Last updated: Sep 20, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother has had several fender benders but still wants to drive. She one time put the house key in ignition when she could not find her car key. She says she will kill herself rather than not be able to drive to her favorite place for food everyday. Right now she is with me living outside of her home state but is insisting on going home soon. We have disabled her car but she has a plan to get it running again. Mom is very non-compliant with medication. She cannot live with her other children living in her home state. Doctor has told her she cannot drive or live alone, she fired him. She cannot get license plate renewed and will drive with expired plates. I try to talk to her about it and she gets angry and cries and accuses me of holding her hostage and making her a prisoner. She called police on my brother in her home state when he tried to stop her from driving. HELP

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.

Thanks for sharing your situation, I'm sorry -- it sounds very, very challenging. It isn't clear to me what your mother's health problems are that make her unfit to drive or why the doctor told her to stop driving. But let's assume she is no longer medically fit to drive. I think a key problem is the discrepancy between how she views herself and how others view her abilities. You, your siblings, and a health care provider have all concluded that she is not safe and not taking care of herself. She does not share this view and wants to continue her old way of life. I would bet she feels like she is losing control and her independence.

So the issue is how do you get her to give up the keys and to accept this next phase of her life? Find ways to promote her independence. If you can find ways to safely allow her to enjoy her old way of life and to make her own choices it may do wonders for her. You mention that she has a favorite place to eat -- could you give her a ride there once or twice a week? Are there other small battles that you can let her "win" that may make losing the right to drive a little easier to accept?

My final word of advice is to take care of yourself. When you find yourself exhausted, rest; when you are at the end of your rope, talk to someone who understands the unrelenting stress of caregiving -- or post on -- folks here understand the challenges you are facing. Make taking care of you a priority, too! You and your mother will both benefit.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

We went through the same thing with my Mother. She didn't care if she killed someone else. "If it's my time to go,then I'm ready," was her answer. She would take Percocet or Oxicodene and then wait until it made her feel "good" & she would go. I contacted the state and asked them to do it for us. They sent her a letter and it made it sound like her doctor had turned her in. She had to take her license to the DOT and hand them over. She still is mad at her doctor for that one. She would hate our family if she found out we did it, but it was the only thing we could do without her being bitter toward us. Hope that helps. Let someone else be the bad guys.

Susanpe answered...

In Indiana, the bureau of motor vehicles has a form online that you can complete and submit indicating that you believe a person is a danger on the road. They do an investigation, request info from their doctor as to if they believe the person should or shouldn't be driving. A person in the BMV will also tale the person out for a mandatory driving test. If they fail they have their license taken away. They do have a legal right to retake the test again, but cannot take it for at least 14 days. This makes the "government" the bad guys instead of the family members. Check with your state's BMV to see if they have this in place. If they don't, contact the head of the BMV to begin the process of enacting the process. With over five million people with dementia, and those numbers are expected to triple by 2050, they need to have the process enacted. Susan e, retired social worker

R. ashwill answered...

We have already had a physician tell my dad he is no longer fit to drive. He doesn't understand why. Went to the DMV & was told I have to write a letter asking for revocation of his drivers license. Who do I write the letter to? I want it to be on file with the DMV but as of now it is not.