How can I spare my husband's pride when asking him not to drive anymore?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 17, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband suffered a CVA in December 1995 which left him with cognitive difficulties relating to sequencing, spatial relations, and short term memory, dressing and ordinary household chores.. He started with atrial fibrillation and 3 days after he had a cardioversion (done by paddles on the heart) is when he suffered the stroke.He has never had nor does he have now, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Soon after the stroke he suffered from epilipsy, but after a couple of years he settled into a routine using Keppra which is now given at only 1/2 500 mg pill morning and night and has not had a seizure since 1998. He also has suffererd from Parkinson's disease. for about 4 years, and Sleep Apnea for 12 years. He got a PH'D after a successful career as a Navy pilot, and still has a great deal of original thought about world affairs. However he is increaseingly unwilling to exert himself, and now spends most of his time in front of the TV unless brow-beaten into moving! As a 24-7-365 caregiver I am now in the process of finding someone to help me in the house so I can spend more quality time with him. He also has macular degeneration which is being treated very successfully with a new process called Lucentis. He has not driven his car for a year and his license will expire in 2011. He is convinced he can drive again, and I am terrified insurance-wise, and for others on the road. We have been married for 54 years, and I still love him although I DO get exasperated. I have severe degenerative arthritis, joint problems, high blood pressure, and cannot walk far at all. So after all of that, my question is, How can I avoid the issue of his driving without embarrassment to him? (I forgot to say he wears hearing aids, but still does not seem to hear well and they are good ones!). He is a proud man and I do not want to see him humiliated. I do not want to be the "policeman" in this as I must do so in so many situations in his life. I am getting very tired and stressed with the weight of my responsibilites. We are 75 and 76.

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.

Thank you for your question and for providing enough detail to get a glimpse of your husband -- beyond a collection of diagnoses, but as a proud, very high-achieving man - that you love after 50+ years of marriage. I can tell you that in general, driving cessation is harder for men compared to women, because it has been such an integral part of the male identity and gender role.

But you mention a couple of points that give me hope this conversation about senior driving may not turn out to be the battle you are dreading. First, he hasn't driven in a year. That works in your favor because he has, in effect, changed his driving behavior. Whether he renews his license next year or not, it may not mean that he will want or expect to actually drive. Talking about being able to drive is different than taking the car out for a drive -- and it may give him comfort and allow him to save face if he asserts that he could drive, but in reality doesn't drive.

Second, his ongoing care needs mean there are multiple health care providers who can help negotiate this issue with you. They can be the "policeman" for you. Talk over the issue with the one you feel most comfortable with. (I'd think the opthamologist may be a great resource and experienced in these types of discussions). Third, read through the articles on about talking about driving cessation. Having open-ended questions or other statements ready in case the issue does come up will help to reduce your dread.

Finally, I would just like to tell you how much I admire the love and support you give to your husband. Make sure you take care of yourself, too. Caregiving is hard work and takes a toll. Do things every day that enrich your soul and lighten your load.

Community Answers

Busyspouse answered...

Thank you. Your answer gave me some good things to think about, and I appreciate your time. I have been finding this website helpful in a number of ways, reading articles on Parkinson's and Alzheimer's , since my husband's condition is unclear, and none of his "professionals" have given a definitive diagnosis. You are also helpful in reminding me that I MUST find time for ME, and I have found that when he naps I can do some exercises and then meditate for 15 or 20 minutes. Thank you again for your thoughtful consideration of our situation.