”When you tell me it’s time for me to stop driving, I won’t argue with you.” I can’t tell you how many times over the years my mother told me this.
She’d had the responsibility of telling her father, a notoriously bad driver, that it was time for him to stop. I think it came after he sideswiped several parked cars in one trip.
He didn’t argue. He didn’t put up a fuss.
She always promised me she’d follow his example.
HA! Famous last words.
When it became very clear she shouldn’t be driving–for her own safety as well as others, My husband and I went over, sat down in the living room with her, made a little small talk. Then I said, “Mom, you’ve always said that when I told you it was time to stop driving, you wouldn’t argue with me.” To which she replied, “I won’t. But it’s not time.”
Long story short, I told her I was just going to take them for a month until she saw the doctor again. She’d been diagnosed with dementia and had started taking Aricept. She was going back for a follow-up visit in a month.
I lasted 4 days. She made my life a living hell. She would call me and yell at me, call me names. We’d hash through everything, she’d calm down, say she understood. Ahh.
Then, two hours later, she’d call back and we’d do it all again. I don’t know if she was forgetting our conversations or just sitting there stewing and getting mad all over again. Maybe a little of both.
Before long, my husband was screening the calls to protect me. I wasn’t functioning. So I gave them back. I called her doctor and asked him to counsel her that it was time to stop driving.
I took her to that appointment. He counseled her brilliantly. It didn’t do a bit of good. I was torn up. My options were allow her to keep driving and risk her getting lost, hurting or even killing herself or someone else. How would I live with myself is something did happen? Or, take the keys and have her put me through hell for the rest of her life. How would I even function?
Like many of the decisions I’ve faced along this journey, I procrastinated. Five months after I initially took the keys away, she showed up at my house unexpectedly. My husband was there, I was on my way home from a meeting. He told me she was there and I said, “Oh, she had a doctor appointment today, she’s probably coming to tell me how it went. Tell her I’ll be there in a few minutes.” We hung up.
He called me right back. She hadn’t been to the doctor yet. She was on her way and couldn’t find it. Uh-oh. We live in a small town. Getting to the doctor from her house requires two right hand turns. She couldn’t find it even though she’s been a patient there for 20 years or more.
I told my husband to take her to the doctor and I’d meet them there. In the meantime, I called ahead, gave the staff the scoop and requested that the doctor confront her with it and tell her she couldn’t drive anymore.
I drove her home, and told her I needed the car to get back home.
In the months since my first attempt at keeping the car, I had learned that I could submit a letter to the Secretary of State indicating that I thought my mother was an unsafe driver and why and request that they test her. They requested some information from the doctor and scheduled an appointment for her. I was able to remain anonymous to her in this process.
A few days before the test, she said she needed to practice driving. So, I picked her up, and suggested she drive to the doctor’s office. The mechanics of her driving weren’t really an issue, the problem was she didn’t know where she was going. She drove all over town. She never did find it.
On the day of the test (which was an hour away), my husband took her. We knew she would leave the facility without her driver’s license and she would be fuming mad at me. I was afraid she would get me so rattled on the way back that I’d have an accident. So he took her.
They didn’t even give her a driving test. She answered a few written questions, which, my husband isn’t even sure they looked at. They revoked her license then and there and gave her a letter stating that if her medical condition changed, she could reapply for her license.
I wish I had known about the Secretary of State option from the beginning. She blames me for everything. She knows I’m responsible for her not driving, even though I’ve never admitted having anything to do with the “test.” I can’t help but wonder if things would be different had I never said anything about her driving and just contacted the state. (For information on this in your state, click here.)
It took four months, and my promising to get her a new car if she were able to get her license reinstated, before she agreed to sell her car. It’s been 11 months since she drove and thankfully, she isn’t still yelling about it. Maybe it’s because she’s accepted it. Probably it’s because other stuff has happened since then for her to be mad about.
But that’s a story for another day.