HOW TO CONVINCE AN OBSTINATE ELDER TO STOP DRIVING
by Jacqueline Marcell
Getting an obstinate elder to give up driving can be a difficult hurdle to overcome because seniors, like all of us, don't want to give up their freedom. But when families understand that seniors have a four times higher accident rate and a nine times higher fatal accident rate, they realize the importance of acting sooner rather than later to prevent a catastrophe.
My own very "challenging" 85-year-old father loved to drive and had never had an accident. Fortunately, he also voluntarily gave up driving after his foot "slipped" off the brake and onto the gas, taking us on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in the carport. One day, however, the car keys were mysteriously missing and we were sure that he had snatched them. My parents' live-in caregiver, Ariana, was trapped, unable to move her car from behind his because we knew he'd try to drive if given the chance. I called long-distance and tried to talk some sense into him. "Daaad, I'm sorry you can't drive anymore, but we can't risk an accident. What if you hurt someone? Wouldn't you feel just awful? Please give Ariana the car keys." "I don't know where the keys are -- I swear to God." I told Ariana to wait until he went to sleep and then try to find the keys. However, she was up all night trying to find them, then called me exasperated when nothing turned up. "Did you check inside his shoes?" "Jacqueline, I swear to you, I have looked absolutely everywhere and they are not here. I patted him down and they weren't in his pockets. I can't imagine what he did with them," she said in total exhaustion. Later, Ariana called back with a brilliant plan. "Once I finally get the car keys, I'll go buy "The Club," and put it on his steering wheel. That way he can keep his darn keys and he still won't be able to go anywhere." The next morning, Ariana heard a "clink, clink, clink" as Dad shuffled to the kitchen table. "Jaaake, what's that clinking noise I hear?" "I don't hear nothin'." (Dad refused to wear his hearing aid, so he really didn't hear nothin'.) "Jaaaake, lift up your pant leg, and I mean it! On the double!" He swore a blue streak but finally complied, and there, masking-taped to his calf, were the car keys. He refused to hand them over for hours, but when Ariana refused to talk to him, he finally gave them up. The next day he called me practically crying, "I know I can still drive. My license is still good for two more years. Why are you doing this to me?" "OK, Dad, I'll tell you what. Ariana will take you to the DMV and you can take the eye test. If you pass it you can drive home, no questions asked, OK?"