Driving – NOT

Getting our loved ones to stop driving is a very difficult challenge. In my experience I was not confident that the doctors evaluating my husband knew and saw enough about him and his cognitive difficulties to take a firm position on whether he should drive or not. Heck his Neurosurgeon said that not letting him use a imagechainsaw was a marital issue!  So on the driving I knew I couldn’t convince my Miata loving, former autocross champ to give up driving even using my expert powers of feminine guile.  Plus I was worried, that he could possibly pass a DMV test given in our right to kill state vs one given in a state like California where doctors are legally required to report patients they deem dangerous to DMV and DMV does something.   I had to trick the neurosurgeon into restricting his driving by quoting the most recent hospital discharge instructions.  Once entangled he wrote a referral for a driving skills assessment that he had no knowledge even existed in his own hospital.

I was fortunate to find a driver rehabilitation specialist (a credentialed subspecialty of occupational therapy (OT)) who administers all sorts of standardized tests to assess cognitive abilities, reaction time, visual acuity in various lighting conditions, multiple distraction integration, etc. in the office setting. If he passed the office tests then she would take him on the road in a dual controlled car and assess his driving skills. It never got that far.  He failed the office tests.  The OT said he can try again in the future but I doubt that will ever happen.

It was not an easy experience to watch him take the tests.  There were times I just wanted to cry and say, “stop already.”  When he was told that he failed, he stood up, started yelling at me about how happy I must feel then stormed out of the office and left the building.  Eventually he calmed down and no longer directs his frustration about not being allowed to drive towards me.

This may sound harsh but I feel that if my sweetie could drive on roads without other drivers or pedestrians I would gladly give him the keys and let him drive, crash, etc. but I don’t want to live with the memory of him harming or killing someone when I knew he was unsafe to drive.

Over time, he has accepted the reality.  At least twice a week he says, “when I drive again…”  More recently though he has expressed a desire to take the test over.  He seems to link the end of chemotherapy with the restoration of approval to drive.  He asked me to contact the OT but instead I said, “here’s her number so you can call and reschedule.”  I notified the OT that my sweetie may call.  It took about two weeks for him to call.  The OT gave him some websites to practice cognitive skills before retesting.  He went to the websites but had trouble accessing the exercises and asked me to set it up.  Essentially I said that in order to drive again then it is important to do all the expected tasks by himself.

Here’s a link to the driver rehab specialist website that explains the credential and how to find one in your area.

http://myaota.aota.org/driver_search/index.aspx/index.aspx

To view short videos about how medical conditions impact driving skills take a look at this website:

https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/older-drivers

 

 

Posted numerous times on http://www.alzconnected.org and Yahoo NPH Support Forum.

3 thoughts on “Driving – NOT

  1. Going throJugh the driving evaluation & being told he could no longer drive was horrible for my husband as well. It seems to be the equivalent of taking their man card. Somehow it always seems to be the spouse who is blamed.

  2. The dementia ride really challenges the self-worth of the spouse/caregiver. Certainly the loved one is not immune from these issues as well. As the “Protector” though the spouse/caregiver is commonly blamed for taking away liberties. It’s very important to tell yourself that you are doing the right thing for your loved one, yourself and the community particularly on the driving issue. If your loved one was caring for you he would have to do the same thing to get you off the road. The way to look at this is not to see it as blame but as an expression of frustration of our loved one’s inability to understand what’s going on and why. It’s the disease speaking. Not them. Try to look at the words coming from the disease and not your loved one. The disease is not him.

    My sweetie inexplicably regained some awareness of his impairments about 6 months before he passed away. On one drive he said that he was glad he wasn’t driving. That was a moment of joy for me.

    Hopefully you and your loved one will adapt to this major life change in short order. We can’t predict where NPH will take our loved ones and how fast or slow so try to accept and welcome his “disease” personality and do not take it personally.

    Getting the driving evaluation done was a very loving thing for you to do and for him to take. Be gentle on yourself.

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