Removing the Car Keys

Handing over the car key  I did a recent post on my FaceBook page (DCPutnam Consulting) about this issue, but I want to look at it in more detail because it is such an important issue for caregivers. There are so many responsibilities that caregivers have to assume when they are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. However, I don’t think most caregivers realize the seriousness of this particular issue.
Let’s look at a specific scenario and the problems it causes for the person with dementia…..
** Your Dad’s memory is affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia, so there is always the possibility that your Dad will get in the car, travel a distance and have absolutely no idea how to return home. He could be gone for hours or days and be miles away from home.
** “More than 60 percent of those with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia will wander, and if a person is not found within 24 hours, up to half of individuals who wander will suffer serious injury or death” according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Wandering can take place on foot, while driving a car or on public transportation.
** When Dad gets into his car and wanders away, a Silver Alert can be issued by the local or state police. Can you imagine how your Dad will feel when he is pulled over by the police? His confusion and memory loss are going to complicate his situation and he is not going to have any understanding of what is happening to him.
** If your Dad has been experiencing changes in his behavior and tends to be belligerent or stubborn, the police could potentially put him in handcuffs. No one wants that to happen to their loved one.
** This scenario could have been completely avoided.
So what does this mean for a caregiver?
** Thank goodness the Silver Alert program exists, but the stress and worry that a family goes through during this time is devastating. The television / radio stations and interstate signs will post Silver Alert announcements, but it might take hours or days before someone finds your Dad. I am aware of a gentleman who wandered away, prior to the Silver Alert program, and drove his car from his home in the State of Virginia. He was found several days later in the State of Maine on a logging road. Family members experience guilt, frustration, embarrassment and high levels of stress when someone wanders away, not to mention the safety issues involved.
** There could be potential legal action if there is an accident. No one wants to feel responsible for what might happen because Dad’s reaction time is too slow or he doesn’t understand the meaning of a stop sign or a red light any longer.
** What would happen if your Dad caused an accident and someone was killed?
Is it time for you to have this very difficult conversation about driving with your Dad? Does he need to surrender his car keys? Do you need to remove his car from view and hide his keys? Would it be appropriate for your mechanic to remove something under the hood that will prevent your Dad from driving the car?  Should you seel the car?
These conversations or decisions are never easy. But there comes a point when caregivers must take the necessary steps to keep Dad and others safe. Don’t wait until it is too late to step forward and do what is best for all concerned.

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