Give Me the Keys, Please
Being the caregiver of a parent creates new challenges daily. Slowly, the parent becomes the child and the child becomes the parent. And neither are happy. The parent resists help and direction from the person they used to tuck into bed at night and had to leave a night light on for. While adult children often experience a combination of resentment of the responsibility they have to assume as well as the fear of their parents anger towards them and the changing roles. In no situation is this more front and center than when a child has to finally take the car keys from a parent or a loved one with dementia.
The surrender of the car keys is often perceived as the end of the line where independence is concerned. The fact that the person with dementia may have had a number of fender benders, get lost regularly and lose their car in parking lots frequently is of no concern to them. Giving up the keys means being at the mercy of others. Those in possession of their car and keys will fight to keep them.
Fortunately for me, I never experienced this aspect of caregiving with my mother because she never learned to drive. Which was a hassle growing up, but a relief as a grown up.
I have absolutely no advice on how to take the keys away from an Alzheimer’s/dementia patient who is not on board with your observances of their driving. I do, however, have five compelling reasons for taking the keys away. (You may also want to remove the car from the premises as well. You never know when extra sets of keys may be lurking within their reach.)
According to Georgia Regent’s University 1st Alzheimer’s Symposium, 207 drivers have been lost over the past ten years. Out of those 207 drivers:
· 32 were found dead
· 116 were found alive, but 35 of those were injured
· The main cause of death was drowning or exposure
But even worse, was:
· 70 of those drivers have never been found.
In other words, 70 families and countless loved ones have no closure; have no idea of the fate of the person missing; and in reality, will probably never know. No viewing, no obituary, no funeral. And what kind of condolence cards do you send someone who is living this nightmare? There are no words for it.
I cannot imagine living with the question eternally in my mind about the fate of a parent, spouse or sibling.
Ask others who have had to take this step with an Alzheimer’s/dementia patient. (One woman in my support group had the car “stolen” in the middle of the night. She asked for help from local police and staged a police report. Then she just kept doing the driving until her husband assumed this had always been normal for them.) In spite of all the advice you may receive on how to accomplish this, one day it will simply need to be done.
In all likelihood it will not be a pleasant experience. But you will sleep better at night knowing where they are and not wondering where they are.