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Taking the Keys

There came a time when Mom’s memory loss and other cognitive impairments started to

affect her driving.  She began getting lost too many times while driving, her poor response time and overall skills were at the point where she could very easily hurt or kill herself and/or others.  It became blatantly clear that she just should not be on the road anymore.  There were a lot of white knuckle days for this kid.  A lot.

When my concerns about her driving and driving skills first came to light, I put an umbrella policy in place to further protect her estate should something happen.  But when enough was enough, I enlisted help from her neurologist who, in turn, wrote a letter to DMV requesting that her driving privileges be withdrawn.

In the meantime, I either drove Mom, or I asked her friends to drive her, to appointments to keep her from getting behind the wheel.  And I did it with subtlety where there was no offense or disrespect.

My concerns spanned over a years’ time after diagnosis.  The worst of it included her driving 50 miles back and forth from her home to the cabin.  Mom had never taken a wrong turn on or off the freeway, thank God, probably because this particular drive has been in her blood for over 55 years, and the Tahoe area itself, has been in her blood her entire lifetime.  But Mom’s hometown of Reno has been changing continuously over the last 15 years, especially the last 7; new road and intersection expansions, old structure tear-downs and the rebuilding of new buildings that make an area unrecognizable.  There’s more traffic, unfamiliar streets and neighborhoods, all of this causing Mom to become disoriented and lost.

On her own accord and sometimes without telling me, she would go to her cabin not remembering commitments for that day, even after looking at her calendar that morning or us discussing appointments for that day.  When we were together at the cabin (which I tried to do as often as possible for obvious reasons), she’d dig her heals in and refuse to leave after I said, “We need to go back to Reno.”  I work in both Tahoe and Reno, and when I had to leave, Mom did not budge in going back with me.  After a heated, futile debate, I’d have to leave her at the cabin alone.  This further removed her from her life 50 miles away and wouldn’t show up for scheduled appointments.  I’d get the phone calls from her no-show appointments.  I’d have to re-schedule and pay for the missed appointment.

When I had had enough of this segment of caregiving, I creatively came up with a half-truth “story” derived from conversations from both her auto insurance agent and her estate attorney, knowing this “story” would most likely have her handing over the keys.

I learned from Support Group at the Alzheimer’s Association to direct the burden(s) and blame to the professionals as often as possible and away from myself.  This meant the doctor’s, insurance agents, CPA’s, financial advisors, lawyers and Indian Chiefs.

The “story” that I came up with (the fib, i.e., “Compassionate Misinformation”) was that if she was in an auto accident, whether she caused the accident or not, she could be sued with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s on record.  I personally didn’t know of any incident where this was true, but it sounded plausible.

It worked.   She didn’t want to hurt anyone, and she certainly didn’t want her estate to be vulnerable, so Mom handed over the keys without saying another word about it.

Of course there were tears.  And I could see her pride and heart smashed into a thousand pieces.  But this put an end to Mom harming herself or anyone else as well as ending my white-knuckle days of worry.

What Is True For Me 

The conspiracies, maneuverings, plotting, all the tears, arguments and angst in this driving issue were relentless and punishing for us both.  This saga did NOT go without drama and heartbreak.  But taking the keys away had to be done, and I had to be the one to do it. 

I talk a lot about the roll-reversal that happens in caregiving.  This is one of those times where I had to be the parent.  No question, I had to be the parent.

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