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Joan’s Blog – Thursday – September 6, 2007 – The Driving Issue
Oh, my goodness, this is such a sore subject in my house, I hesitate to write about it. But it is a very serious issue that I know many of you are struggling with. When the time comes that it is no longer safe for your spouses to drive, how do you stop them?   

I am writing this using men as examples, because it has been my experience that giving up driving affects them much more negatively, and they fight harder and longer than the women to maintain the privilege. I will post this as a new discussion on the message boards – I’d like to hear the stories and opinions of the wives AND the husbands who have been forced to take the keys from their spouses.

Alzheimer’s Disease affects a multitude of brain functions that are involved in driving – memory; processing speed; judgment; visual perception. When your spouse forgets where he is going, cannot react quickly in traffic, and does not properly perceive the location of road lines  and other cars, driving is out of the question.

The problem is, as we all know from the experience of living with an AD spouse, you cannot reason with someone whose judgment is impaired. A person with poor judgment cannot RECOGNIZE they have poor judgment, because……….they have poor judgment. Talk about a no-win situation!

I have heard from spouses who hide the car keys. Okay, but YOU still have keys. What happens when you try to take him to a doctor’s appointment, and he argues and refuses to get into the car  unless he can drive, then stomps into the house, and refuses to go. No doctor’s appointment that day. In his mind, it is YOUR fault that he is not being allowed to drive, not the doctor’s, not his disease. All of his anger and fury will be directed at you. The result is more pain and frustration for you, and another crack in an already fractured relationship.

When the order comes directly from the doctor to your spouse, in a face to face meeting, rather than you trying to handle it alone, the results are somewhat better. There will still be seething resentment, but they are more likely to begrudgingly accept the verdict from the doctor. The legal matters follow – surrendering the license to the Motor Vehicle Registry, and getting a picture ID.

We are looking at this from our perspective – we are concerned with the safety of our spouses, ourselves, if we are in the car while they are driving, and the rest of the population on the roads..
But just for a moment, let’s look at it from his perspective. Driving represents INDEPENDENCE, YOUTHFULNESS, COMPETENCE, AND STATUS. Take those qualities away from him, and he is bound to feel demoralized, angry, helpless, and hopeless

Once the deed is done, and the license is gone, we need to try to soothe his pain by validating his feelings, and assuring him we understand. His AD confused mind may or may not accept your empathy, but I think it is better than trying to reason with him.

And this too, shall pass. In time, he will forget about it, and adjust to being chauffeured around. Again, more work for an already overworked spouse, but this is the reality of living with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Message board discussion will be labeled – The Driving Issue – Tell us your experiences.

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