We know how difficult it is for family caregivers to take the necessary actions to “remove” the car keys from an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient when it becomes dangerous for that person to drive…. especially if that person does not believe that anything is wrong.
- Has become less coordinated.
- Has difficulty judging distance and space.
- Gets lost or feels disoriented in familiar places.
- Has difficulty engaging in multiple tasks.
- Has increased memory loss, especially for recent events.
- Is less alert to things happening around him or her.
- Has mood swings, confusion, irritability.
- Needs prompting for personal care.
- Has difficulty processing information.
- Has difficulty with decision-making and problem solving.
Let me also give you a few suggestions of what can be done if actually taking the car keys away seems impossible. You might not be able to do it at the moment, but perhaps in 2-3 months you can be successful in your efforts.
- Make a practice of using “therapeutic fiblets” – little white lies – to maintain the patient’s safety.
- Replace the actual car key on your loved one’s key chain with a similar looking one that won’t work in the car.
- Indicate that the keys have been lost and you need to get a new one from the dealership.
- Disconnect the battery or spark plugs.
- Have your mechanic disconnect some other item under the hood that might be less visible than #3.
- Remove the car from the premises (best option) with the fiblet that it needs to be inspected or repaired.
- Convince Grandpapa that his favorite grandson or granddaughter needs a car for college or a new job.
- If you live in snow country have the snow plowers block the car in with piles of snow around it.
What you have to remember is that with most patients, you can use the same “reason or fiblet” several times a day or over a longer period of time, as they won’t remember what you told them previously. We know our Alzheimer’s and dementia patients have increased issues with perception and reaction times. Don’t take the chance that your loved one, another family member or a stranger on the road might be seriously injured or killed because a person with some form of dementia is still driving.
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