When Your Family Member Who Shouldn't Drive Insists on Doing So
It is important to involve older family members in
decisions about driving. However, when a person has a dementia, such as
Alzheimer's disease, family members need to take an active role in making and
carrying out decisions.
People with Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder simply
may not remember that they can no longer drive. Arguing or giving explanations
about why the person no longer can drive usually does not work. You will likely
only get more frustrated, and so will your family member. Families have found
many of the following actions - which are also suggested by the Alzheimer's
Association - worked for them.
Get a prescription from the doctor that states "no driving". Show this to your
relative when s/he insists on getting behind the wheel.
Distract the person
When your family member insists on driving, try to get his or her attention
focused on something else. For example, one wife would say to her husband, "I
was just fixing a bowl of your favorite ice cream. Let's eat it first." Another
wife would say, "We can't drive now. The car needs to be repaired."
Control access to car keys
Do not leave car keys in view of your family member. Give him or her a
different, but similar-looking set of keys or have a locksmith file the part of
the key that turns the ignition. The person can still enter the car, but will
not be able to start it. Some people, however, may become frustrated and angry
when "the keys won't work."
Disable the car
A car mechanic can show you how to quickly disable a car - remove the
distributor cap or battery or unplug the starter wire - so it won't run and what
to do to get it to operate again. Another option is to have a "kill wire"
installed. It prevents the car from starting unless a switch is thrown. If your
family member lives alone, this may not be a good option.
As one family said:
"We knew how important Dad's car was to him. I had never seen him cry so hard as
the day we told him he could no longer drive. He finally agreed not to drive,
but wanted to keep his car in his driveway.
Since we did not know if he would remember that he was not to
drive, as a precaution, we made his car inoperable. What we did not count on is
that a week later he would call a mechanic to repair the car."
Move the car
For some people, seeing the car is what triggers the desire to drive. Try
parking the car where your family member does not see it but where you can get
Sell the car
You might use the excuse that the car cannot be repaired or that the car was no
longer safe to drive.
In addressing driving concerns, it is important to remember that:
Driving is not a right; it is a privilege, which the state may grant or
An older driver does not automatically equal an unsafe driver. Do not hassle the
older family member who is driving safely. Age is not the most important
criterion for determining an unsafe driver.
When asking a person to give up driving, we are asking a great deal.
Driving and owning a car have a symbolic meaning as well as practical
It is important to work with your family member, so that it is his or her
If your family member is putting others at risk by driving, or is cognitively
impaired, you will need to take an active role in the decision.
Public safety is a high priority. How well a person drives affects the lives of
everyone else on the road. Act if you must!