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Taking the Keys Away From My 89-Year-Old Father

Biggest Challenge: My 89-year-old father had his foot caught between the gas and brake pedal of his car and he ran into the pillar at the front of the grocery store he and my mom were at. Luckily he did not hurt or kill anyone and while he hit his head on the windshield of his car (he was not wearing a seatbelt) a CAT scan showed he was fine. He did total his car and was found liable by the insurance company. My sisters and I had expressed our concerns about his driving given he had fallen a couple of months before and ended up with micro fractures of his leg just below his knee. We told him we did not want to see a repeat of the tragic Santa Monica Farmer's Market incident where people died. Then, he had his horrific accident. If he had not hit the pillar, he would have ended up inside the store. He feels that as long as he can walk, he can drive. What he doesn't want to admit is that he walks with assistance, either a cane or a walker, and that his balance is not that good. We are at a complete loss as to what to do. He won't listen to reason and we don't want to have him kill someone if he drives. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time. i saw you today on the KCAL9 noon news. 



Response from DM:

Dear Linda,

Thank you for writing. Watching our parents drive when we know they are not safe on the road is a very difficult position to be in. My most difficult conversation with my father was when we had "That Conversation". My book Elder Care Made Easier touches on the subject. First and foremost make sure that your father is physically, mentally and emotionally fit: hearing, eyes, balance, judgment, reactions and responses. Are any of his medications contra indicated (not mixing well with other medications)? Does he have one for the road thinking that just one drink (of alcohol) won’t do any harm? With his cooperation, have him checked out by his primary doctor and any other doctors that have an influence on him, or may be giving him medications that may contribute to his driving erratically or impair his judgment. I had my father go to a driving class, to reduce his insurance as well as reinforce the rules of the road. Just because someone has been driving for many years does not mean they know or remember all the rules and regulations. If you feel your father is competent and understanding, let him know how his driving and the potential for him to hurt himself or others is on your mind. Usually when the older driver realizes that it is not their need alone that is involved, I have found that most often they will be more cooperative. If it comes to truly having to take away the keys, after every thing possible has been done, be aware and sensitive to how that will impact on his independence, manhood, medical and social life. Taking away the keys is a profound step but if you keep in mind all of his needs and address them, the transition can be harmonious.


Dr Marion

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