My mother is 85 with early -to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Although her physician has told my parents that she absolutely should not drive, she insists on it.  My father is not stepping up to help at all.  One day he will urge her not to drive but other times, he relents and says it’s ok.  Last week she had a minor fender bender and he had no reaction.  In fairness to my father, he is 85, works hard to keep her engaged every day and frankly I think he’s just worn out.  What can we do?  Jackie B., Cherry Hill, NJ

Persuading an elderly parent that it’s time to hang up the car keys is one of the most common and contentious issues that family members must deal with.  Just Google the topic and see the thousands of articles offering suggestions that range from hiding the keys to reporting your parents to the DMV. Here’s my take on your situation along with some suggestions that have worked for many of my clients.

First, about your father - as the person on the front lines of a sad and difficult situation, he sounds worn out, and probably lacks the strength to constantly reason and negotiate with your mother.  However, while he needs and wants to take the lead, you can still help and guide the process. 

I would begin by having a calm discussion with your father, preferably with another family member.  Refrain from expressing what you wish he would do. Instead, focus on the facts most relevant to her situation such as; the potential impact of her medications on driving; her confusion when driving in traffic; known dangerous intersections nearby, and issues related to personal liability. 

Keep in mind that when your mother does stop driving, your father will have a greater responsibility to be her full-time chauffeur.  Therefore, be ready with a solution that will make the transition easier for both of them.  I have a few ideas that you can discuss with your father and that your parents can try out together:

  • Set up an account on GoGo Grandparent, a service that easily links seniors to Uber and Lyft without the stress that often comes with using APPs.  All one has to do is call and press “1” to be picked up at home,  or “2” if you want to be picked up where you were last dropped off, and “3” if you have a special request, such as a ride to a doctor’s office, or the store.  What I especially like about GO GO Grandparent is that their drivers are  trained to help older people and they will ensure that your mother safely arrives at her destination. For more details about this service, here's a link to a blogpost I wrote about them last year. 
  • Alternatively, there are driving services such as Red Cap that use your own car. While a bit more expensive than GoGo Parent, they may be preferable on nights when you want to pick up your friends for an evening out at a restaurant or theatre.  The driver will drop you off and be there when you’re ready to return home. (Why wait until you’re older to enjoy this service?!) There are other companies that do this. Just make sure they are careful when selecting drivers to transport older people and that they are carefully screened.

If your mother can adjust to going places as a passenger with or without your father (perhaps with a friend), then perhaps the next step could be to hire a companion who can take her to do errands or to join her friends for some activities outside of the house. That would free him up to drive for his own enjoyment and that in turn would give him some much-needed relief.


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Category: Care Planning, Caregiving, Family Relationships, Memory Disorders/Dementia/Alzheimer's Disease, Lifestyle