Keeping My Elderly Mother from Driving

This is a random question for this website, but I'm starting to get a bit desperate. My elderly mother has had her license revoked, but refuses to stop driving. (She's prone to strokes, disorientation, has severe mobility problems, and horrible reflexes). We'd take her car away, but she lives alone and not having a car there would make the house look abandoned. She refuses to move to assisted living.

We also need to be able to use the car when either of my siblings or I come to check in on her (she's more comfortable getting in and out of her car than ours). We've tried taking the keys, and she had the dealership come out to make copies. We've tried disconnecting the battery, and she called AAA. She lies to anyone who is willing to help her get the car running.

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We're afraid she's going to kill someone, or herself. In short, we need to disable the car for her but not for us. Has anyone else had this kind of problem, and how on earth did you work with it? Thanks for any advice.

Beth

November 5, 20080 found this helpful

Hi there. I really feel for you. I heard a story from a guy who has a towing company that there was a disabled car he needed to tow and when he got there he found a car with no back wheels and when he asked the family what happened he was told that they removed the wheels and left the car on blocks but that their mom decided to drive anyway so she drove the car off the blocks and drove the car to go where she wanted. Kinda funny. They are so used to their lives that sometimes they can't be stopped. Would it be an option to have someone stay with her when you and your family cannot be there or contact the dealer and AAA to let them know NOT to fix the car?

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November 5, 20080 found this helpful

My father was like that, we hid keys which he found, so the neighbor just simply took the distributor cap, it won't start. You could just remove the battery as well. Good Luck. As we get older, its hard to give up what we are use to, our freedom. Myself I plan on quit driving at 70.

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November 5, 20080 found this helpful

You have my sympathy--I've been through this too. Has her doctor told her she must stop driving? My mother was more accepting hearing it from a dr. more than just family. Good luck--it's a tough time for everyone.

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November 5, 20080 found this helpful

How about having a neighbor or friend park their extra car in her drive and leave her their number--when she calls them, either they can take her where she needs to go, or they can call and let you know.

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November 5, 20080 found this helpful

I have worked with Seniors for 30 years and what we suggest to our families is to remove the distributer cap to disable the engine. Good luck and take care of yourselves.

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November 5, 20080 found this helpful

I was just wondering if there was any way just to take her keys, that way the car would still be sitting in the driveway to thwart burglars.

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November 5, 20080 found this helpful

Have you tried using something like "the Club"? You could remove it from the steering wheel as needed, but maybe she couldn't remove it to drive it.

You could also have a very loud annoying alarm set to go off if the touches the car door and disable the alarm when necessary.

Change the locks on the garage, lock the car in there, and keep the keys at your place so she can't get to the car.

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November 5, 20080 found this helpful

Wow! Enlist the help of Mother's Dr., then call a family meeting. Do not bully Mother, but show her how much she means to all, and inform her that you will be driving her car to your home for her use when needed. You will take over ins. payments, etc. and the car is still her property. No one will drive her car (make sure no one does..show respect) unless it is to take her somewhere. Keep up the maintenance of auto, etc. Stress the law re: her license. Let her know that although this may be hard for all now, that you do love and respect her, but you also love your children, grandchildren, pets, anyone or anything else you find appropriate in this, and their well-being is also important. This is how it is going to be. Stick to your decision. Do not back down. She may be very angry, but unless she has a dementia or is a very selfish person, she will come to accept her loving family's decision. Make sure everyone is reasonably in agreement and will not sneak the keys to Mother or let her drive their car! Make a family contract and have family members sign it (not as a legal issue so much as a family agreement). You are not only protecting her but also anyone else who may be on the road. Make absolutely sure Mother knows you all love her. God Bless You and Yours.

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Anonymous Flag
November 5, 20080 found this helpful

Something to consider: it's very likely possible that if she has had a stroke, that it has impaired brain function, to the extent that she is unable to grasp the concept of her disability; she doesn't see it, therefore, there is no problem. She is so used to thinking, and doing, for herself, that it's habit for her to be independent, and she's unwilling to relinquish that ability of control, and depend on others. (This is on the assumption that she has actually has had a stroke in the past). Unfortunately, there is still the problem of the vehicle. You could lock the doors, hide the key, and post a note prominently inside the vehicle, saying something along the lines of , "Please contact Such-And-Such or So-And-So at 999-0000 before performing any service concerning this vehicle, prior authorization needed for payment of services rendered; or something else along these lines to get the point across.

If you absolutely have to wind up moving the vehicle, would it be possible to leave someone's extra vehicle in the driveway to give the impression that someone is at home? If you decide to go that route, (no pun intended, hehehe!) then make sure you move the vehicle from time to time, don't let the grass grow tall around it; for all appearances, the vehicle is used often, which means that the place is occupied, and the vehicle frequently driven. Good luck to you, and as we say in the south, "I feel your pain!"

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November 5, 20080 found this helpful

Hi there guys, thank you SO much for all the suggestions. We're going to try taking the tags off of the car next. We have no way of knowing how many copies of the car keys she had made, and until we can get her insurance to drop her, we're hoping that she'll get pulled over for not having tags. I love the distributer cap idea, but her car doesn't have one... We've also considered The Club, but really, anything that requires keys, she'll just call a locksmith and say she lost them. (She's a great con artist) Leaving a note in the car is a great idea, but we're afraid of thieves.

It's just so hard to get the message to her. Every time she goes to the doctor, she asks him if she can drive, and he says absolutely not, and she refuses to hear him. It really is a medical issue, and not just stubbornness, but it's still infuriating. You can't argue with her or explain the rationality of the situation to her- there's no reasoning left. She just wants to drive, and she sees no reason why she shouldn't.

Please don't stop sending suggestions. It's only a matter of time before she gets one step ahead of us. THAT part of her mind is still quite alert... Thanks again.

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Anonymous Flag
November 5, 20080 found this helpful

Oh, oh, oh, I know! Tell her that she isn't covered on insurance because she is now an unlicensed driver, and that if she gets into an accident, the injured party could sue her for everything that she has, and that includes the car. (If she's anything like MY mother, she will insist that she has no intention of getting into an accident, therefore she can't be sued........sheesh!)

P.S. I have a very similar situation with my mother, too long and involved to get into it here, but I would be great with a personal e-mail if you need a shoulder to cry on, ha! I have an account on this web-site, or I can be reached at carole4441heaven at bellsouth.net Like I said before, I feel your pain. :)

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November 5, 20080 found this helpful

Maybe, in view of her disablities, it could be time to bring an application to the appropriate Court holding jurisdiction to have a curator appointed. Discuss this with her attorney. The doctor could provide a report.

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Anonymous Flag
November 6, 20080 found this helpful

I don't know a lot about car engines but there was a time when I was young that my brother kept trying to take off in my car. My mechanic told me to simply remove the rotor and keep it in my purse. It worked ;-) I don't know if cars now days have a rotor but would be worth trying ;-)

Also, I would type out a full page note in large, bold red letters with a couple of contact numbers and simply state your mom is not legally allowed to drive. I would then laminate it and super glue it thoroughly to the hood inside the engine. Your mom might see or find it but she most likely wouldn't be able to remove it and whoever comes to try to help her will most likely call the contact numbers before doing any 'repairs' out of concern for liability reasons ;-) Good Luck :-)

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November 6, 20080 found this helpful

Take off the insurance and AAA coverage completely. If your mom has a Power of Attorney appointed, then you could state to both the car insurance and the AAA, not to reinstate her under your mom's word. And why do you have to have her car in the drive way. Put it at one of the kids house to take her to the Dr. (don't tell her where). And put an nonworking car in her drive way. Alot of people would love to get them out of their yard or drive way. As long as it looks decent, let that set her her drive way for looks.

Sounds like you got one smart momma, better smarten up, and think fast. A lot of times a Power of Attorney can make decisions, and alert companies to not take orders from your mom. If she is not willing to pick a POA, then get a lawyer to do it for her. Good luck.

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November 6, 20080 found this helpful

I would contact the locksmith's in the area and tell them they are not allowed to help her. They need to understand there is a reason she no longer has the keys. I believe if they have been informed she is no longer allowed to drive in writing, they could be charged in an accident. Do that with AAA and any others who might help her. Also canceling the AAA and have it in the name of one of her kids would be best.

I saw a elderly lady in the same sort of circumstance almost run over one of the men here at elderly housing. He had quick reflexes and he was not hurt. What if she had hit him? He would have sued. I am sure she never meant to cause an accident.

You have to let everyone know even if she is upset. The fewer people she can count on to help the easier it is to keep her off the road. Many people would refuse to help if they knew the danger.

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November 6, 20080 found this helpful

So many simple ways to disable a car. I esp. like a laminated note tucked under the hood for auto club or the like about her not being allowed to drive. It is possible mom may now need a conservator, not a curator, but you need to go to court, hire at attorney and have doc statements re: her disabilities. Consult a family law attorney.

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November 6, 20080 found this helpful

We went through the same thing with my grandfather. He would sleep with his license and keys under his pillow so we couldn't take them away. We would disable the car (I don't remember how my Dad did it) but he would talk a neighbor into getting it going. One morning bright and early before we were up, we heard the engine going. He would get up real early and sneak out!

Another day it was my turn to be *sitting* him. I was going in to shower and he promised me he wouldn't take the car out. I no sooner got the water running when I heard the car start. I ran out of the house in my PJ's, after him, as the county road crew parked near by roared in laughter.

Coming from a very small town, they all knew me! I jumped in my car to go after him because previously he had taken off and gotten lost. I caught up and pulled up beside him in the passing lane on the highway giving him hand signals to *get home* now and he looked over at me, gave me a huge grin and the thumbs up signal. Enough was enough. Dad sold the car!

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November 7, 20080 found this helpful

There are lots of great suggestions here and I agree with the understanding that she is unable to grasp that she is endangering everyone else when she drives and she has quite a strong will which can be good for staying in her home but bad when you are trying to reason with her.

The problem that still exists for her is that she does not want to be stuck at home which is what she feels when she can't drive. This is a huge milestone for our seniors. So, she needs to have lots of opportunities to go out with your family members so that she doesn't need to drive herself.

This is a huge burden for your family but I have spoken to many seniors who had their cars taken from them and it is a source of deep anger towards whomever took away the keys or the "right" to drive. Your family should try and decide to be there on different days each week to take her where she needs to go.

For example, Monday can be shopping day with you, Wednesday can be something else with a different member of your family and so on. If she knows that she can count on different members of the family to help her meet her needs to get out, then she may be less inclined to drive herself.

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November 7, 20080 found this helpful

I really like the idea of a family member being with your mother each day of the week. I would just hope that there are enough family members who could do that. If there aren't enough family members, please try to make sure that if she needs something or to go somewhere that she doesn't have to wait too long for someone to pick her up.

I just turned 64 and shuddered when I read the post from the person who said they planned to stop driving when they turned 70. Unless something drastic happened between now and then, there's no way I'd stop driving at 70. I might agree to be retested, but it'd be a fight to stop driving. (For the record, and I'm sure I'm not alone, I feel like I'm 30-something.)

One of the hardest things a person has to give up is their independence. One of the most frustrating things in life is waiting for someone to help you do what you can't do yourself.

So please try to be sensitive your mother's feelings in that she doesn't have to wait on someone. Go by often to visit her.

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November 7, 20080 found this helpful

We went through similar situation with my Mom. And my kids were there often, even before the Dr finally took her license, I had told the kids not to get in the car with Grandma, that that was the one time they had my permission to actively disobey her, for their own safety.

Having the DR talk to her about the fact that she was no longer allowed to drive seemed to help a lot, since she liked and respected her DR.

But the underlying problem is her loss of independence, as others have stated, she just wants to be able to go where she wants, when she wants, like she used to. So haveing someone there to help her and keep her company is a great idea. If it is not feasible for a family member to be with her at all times, there is probablly help available. In our area, there is a govermental agency called "Council on Aging" that will place a CNA or a personal assistant with your older family members, and if they are on Medicare, it will pay most, and in some cases all of the fees.

These people can become companions, help with housework, see to it that Mom eats like she should, and help her get to appointments and do her shopping. It's something worth looking into. Here it is a county governmental agency. I'm sure that there is a similar program available in your area.

Good luck and God bless you, your Mom and all of the family that is trying to help out. And don't forget to take care of yourselves as well; being a caregiver is very hard on you.

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November 8, 20080 found this helpful

We have a service in our area that will take and pick up elderly people for $3 per trip. Perhaps there is something like that in your area.

Another way to get around would be a taxi.

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