Is Mom Still Driving?

When we’re 16 and get those keys for the first time, it’s a thrilling, life-changing event.  But when your loved one has started to have memory problems, it can become the grayest of areas – should they be driving or not?  At what point does it become a danger to them and others on the road?  The issue of driving is a tricky one for caregivers and their loved ones.  Your loved one has been independent all of their adult life, and driving is one of the biggest indicators of that independence.  However, there is a solution to the driving debate.

To find out whether your loved one should still be driving, you may want to have them take a test.  Almost all medical centers that have an occupational therapist available are able to do driving evaluations.  The test may cost a bit and is usually not covered by insurance, but it clearly determines if a person has the physical and mental capacity to drive safely.

If your loved one is confused or having memory issues and you’re just not sure what the right decision is, this type of test will reassure you that you have a responsibility to not let her drive.  If she is not confused during the test, then this will allow her to make an informed decision on her own about whether or not she should drive.  (Don’t be surprised, especially if your loved one is still very “with it” most of the time, if she challenges you to take the test as well.)

Another option that I heard about just this week is a new service from the Area Agency on Aging. Volunteers at some senior centers are providing coaching for people who need to take a driving test to lower their insurance rates.  This is worth an inquiry – you can contact your local chapter to see if it’s a service they provide. If they have instituted this program locally, then you might be able to have the driving test done for free.  One big thing to note about this test, though, is that since it’s attached to the motor vehicle department, if your loved one does NOT pass the driving test, their driver’s license and insurance will both be suspended.

A simple test can solve the problem of driving… although it’s never an easy conversation to have. For more information on how to have that discussion and help your loved one make informed decisions about driving, please refer to my manual,

“When to Take The Keys Away”


in my Alzheimer’s Resource Center.

Also see

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