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Topic force dad to stop driving? Go to previous topic Go to next topic Go to higher level

By SandwichJen On 2010.03.11 16:33
I'm new here, and I just scanned Purpleduck's series about his dad, and wow, I'm so glad I did! That all sounded so familiar! I too have been watching my dad's illness progress with sadness and frustration, but his illness has come on like gangbusters just in the last 3 years, so the situation is constantly morphing, with new, wierd, upsetting things happening all the time.

Our main problem right now (well, one of them) is that my dad still insists on driving. He can hardly stand up, he keels right over for no apparent reason, he is incontinent of bowels and bladder, and can't dress or bathe himself. He has many of the "dementia"/poor reasoning characteristics that Purpleduck describes (which I did not know is a symptom/result of Parkinsons). But the worst thing, for driving purposes, is that his eyes close and then he can't get them open again! He's not asleep, his eyes just close - he keeps talking, but his eyes are closed! We say "Dad, your eyes are closed, open them up," and he says he can't! Then after a while, sometimes five minutes or more, after he pokes and prods at his eyes for awhile, they open back up.

By the way, is this "eye closing" part of the "freezing" that you others mentioned?

Anyway, obviously we don't think he should be driving. Unfortunately, my mom still has to work, so Dad stays at home by himself all day. My mom refuses to get somebody to come stay with Dad during the day - she says they can't afford to pay for it, and that he doesn't need a "babysitter." When I try to discuss this with her, she gets hysterical - but that is yet another story - she is miserable and severely depressed about the whole situation and she is nearly impossible to talk to about it.

We have been told by neighbors that my dad is out driving around during the day - that he drives too fast and he has come frighteningly close to pedestrians, including kids. This winter my husband has gotten many calls from my dad asking him to come help him get out of snowdrifts and ditches. Several times my husband has also had to go rescue my dad when he went out to get in the car and fell on the icy driveway and couldn't get up. I work full time out-of-town, my husband works two jobs, and we have 3 kids in elementary and middle school, so we can't stop our own lives to take care of my dad!

My mom knows that my dad drives. When I have talked to her about it, she carries on about him refusing to stop driving and about him sneak-driving, like that is her excuse to not do anything to stop him. I have told her: "Mom, just hide the keys!" but she hasn't done it. She worries about "taking away his independence," like she doesn't want to do that to him! She cries about how they will lose their house and everything if he kills somebody, but she won't do anything about stopping him from driving! She says: "Sometimes he's just fine!" I think she's in denial and doesn't want to attempt to "control" him.

So my question is: how do you balance the "help him maintain his dignity and independance as much as possible" perspective against the "FORCE him to stop driving even though he insists he must keep driving?"

Do we have to be the bad guys and disable his car, or take his keys?

Do we have the right to do that, from a moral perspective?

As far as getting his license taken away, yes, we could initiate that, but even if he loses his license, I know he'll keep driving if he isn't physically stopped - he is also becoming more and more childlike in his reasoning, and right now he is really mad at my mother because he thinks she's trying to control him, and if we take steps to stop him from driving, he'll be mad at us too.

Any insight on this problem?

By caregivermary On 2010.03.11 17:41
The eye closing is called blepharospasm-involuntary eye closure. It is a form of dystonia. Usually happens because of lack of levodopa or too much. Your dad's neurologist would be able to assess this.

My husb stopped driving 5 years ago because he requested an evaluation. We could not agree on the matter so he thought he could get a medical person to permit it. Big mistake. Even though he passed the eval, his PT, OT, and primary care Dr. conferenced and recommended no driving. He stopped but was not happy. He eventually got over it but still believes he can drive. Lack of concentration, reaction time, eye issues, decision making, and other things are very good reasons PWP shouldn't drive.

What age are your parents? Your Mom is correct in her thinking as to the legal responsibility due to an accident. Your Mom needs help and it seems like you are trying. A Parkinson's support group could be helpful for your Mom. Also, if you could get her on this forum to read some of the previous postings that could make her feel a little more in control of the situation

Unfortuately, your Dad is not going to be happen when the keys are taken away. This is just one of the things that needs to happen for his safety and the safety of everyone else. Maybe the Dr. can help. Are there other children involved. You and your husb could have a talk with your Mom and convince her to do the right thing with your help. This has been or will be a big issue for everyone with Parkinson's. You will find many postings on this forum regarding this topic.

Welcome to the forum and don't give up on your Mom. She needs direction, support and understanding to get through this.

Take care

By LOHENGR1N On 2010.03.11 17:42
SandwichJen, Hi and welcome to the forum. What you are describing about your Dad's eyes is called blepharospasm or forced eyelid closure, Blepharospasm is a type of focal dystonia in which there is involuntary contraction of the muscles of the eyelids causing closure of the lids. Which is different from "freezing".

How do you balance the "help him maintain his dignity and independance as much as possible" perspective against the "FORCE him to stop driving even though he insists he must keep driving?" We had a thread awhile ago on this subject, it will be worth looking it up. I am a Patient and stopped driving a few years ago because I had a couple close calls. Accidents barely avoided. You might have to take the hard line. Many insurance companies won't pay especially if the driver is taking medicines that they weren't informed of and have a condition they don't know of. (This is because if they were informed they would probably refuse to insure the person) Your Dad by driving may be putting His home and savings in jeopardy by continuing to drive. As I say the other thread goes into great detail discussing the driving issue. Again welcome, you'll find many helpful and wise people her to help you in this battle with Parkinson's. Take care, best of luck and hang in there.

By annwood On 2010.03.11 23:31
Welcome to our forum. I am glad that you found us and I hope that you will find confort, answers and compassion here.

It sounds to me as if you have a pretty good idea of what is happening with your father. Unfortunately this is pretty common in advanced PD. I say that because at the time you think that you are the only person experiencing this - sort of like Alice in Wonderland.

My initial impression in reading your post is your mother needs help. On one level she understands the seriousness of your father's illness but on another level she seems to be in complete denial. She has to come to the realization that your father needs a great deal of help at this point. I am very concerned about his safety while home alone during the day and I am shocked to think that he is driving. Do look up past threads on this topic as Al suggested. We have discussed it at length in the past.

I had to stop my husband's driving and believe me it was hard. We argued about it every day! I sold the extra car and kept the keys to my car hidden at all times. He spent most of his day looking for the car keys. Parkinsons, even without dementia, alters response time as the disease progresses. They become severly compromised in this area. There are places where OT's give driving tests to determine if a person is still capable of driving. From your discription I don't even think that is necessary. This has to be done immediately before he kills himself or someone else. Your mother is legally responsible because she is fully aware that he has a neurological disease and is on medications. Insurance will probably refuse to pay for any damages on this account.

Your mother needs to realize that your father is now like a young child and she has a responsibility to take care of him as a young child. Would she allow a 2 yr old to stay home alone or drive a car? In that same vein he will throw tantrums and place demands like a small child. At this stage of the disease it does absolutely no good to try to explain things to him or to get his cooperation - a total waste of time. He will not remember what he has been told and his mind is now operating in an immediate gratification mode. We call this "tough love".

It sounds as if you are far beyond independence and dignity can best be achieved by keeping him safe, loving him, and not allowing him to go about town acting crazy.

I would suggest accompanying your father and mother to the next physician appointment. Either discuss this openly or compose a one page list of concerns. Keep it short or the doc will never read it.

Hope that I haven't been too direct with you. I have a tendency to do that sometimes. I have been through it all and I know how it affects the entire family. Take care of yourself and stay with us.

By Emma On 2010.03.12 04:52

You and your mom are in a tough spot and I sympathize with you. My husband quit driving about a year and a half ago. It was very difficult to get there, he took a driving test and passed (barely) and was furious everytime anyone brought up his driving. I too struggled with the idea of dignity and freedom (still do in other areas), but that takes a backseat to his safety and the safety of others. Besides, what dignity is there in other people thinking that he's a doddering old fool who is a menace to society? Eventually I used my power of attorney to go ahead and sell his car. There was hell to pay for a while but he got over it. Doing what's right is hard, but you have to do it.

It sounds like your mother is just overwhelmed, she has a lot on her plate (as do you), we can all sympathize with that. Denial is an easy way to escape from it, once we let go of the denial we have to do start dealing with issues that we are totally unprepared for and that is even more overwhelming. It's easier to let things ride, but it gets to the point where that isn't an option. You are at, or past, that point. If your mom can't afford help to stay with your dad, and believe me, I understand that can be a very real and legitimate concern, check to see if there are any senior day programs where you live. They are sometimes cheaper than paying hourly help in your home. I also know exactly what you are saying about your dad not thinking that he needs a "babysitter". I'm going through the same thing with my husband right now. I was fortunate to be able to retire early from my job to stay home with him, but now I need a break once in a while. He thinks he's fine on his own, but he's not. He's going to be going to a day program one half day a week, which he finds demeaning. I feel bad (and guilty) about that, but I have to balance it with my sanity. I do many things for him that I would rather not do, now he has to do this for me. Your mom is going to have to find a way to grow a thicker skin. It's hard but it has to be done.

Good luck to all of you.

By lbellomy On 2010.03.12 08:58
One suggestion that I read, is go to a car dealership and get copies of the car keys made that will not work in your dad's car. They will look just like his keys but do not start the car. Then he could be told that the starter is bad. There is also a kill switch that can be installed in his car so even if he finds the keys, he cannot start it.

By susger8 On 2010.03.13 12:57
Lorraine, those are brilliant ideas!

My dad had a couple of minor accidents (hit the curb) but insisted he could still drive. I had an evaluation done with neuropsych testing, and they said he HAD to stop driving. As it turned out, right about this time he broke some ribs in a fall and spent 6 weeks in rehab. While he was there, his licence expired. He kept saying he wanted to go get it renewed, and I kept stalling until he forgot about it. And I took the car and the keys.

He still gets moments when he wants to go out and drive, although he can't walk, has no judgment, and can't see due to glaucoma and cataracts. I tell him the car is at my house so it will get driven more often and keep the battery charged. I promise to bring the car over, which relieves his mind, and then he forgets about it.

Driving is just such a part of a person's identity. It's so hard to give it up.

By SandwichJen On 2010.03.15 17:07
These are all very useful suggestions and thoughts.
I feel better now knowing that I really need to do what we don't want to have to do: stop my dad from driving, period, whatever it takes.
Thank you so much to all of you for your creative and practical ideas, and for your kindness, understanding, and support.
I have spent a lot of time lately reading what you all have written all over this forum. I have learned more from reading your postings than from all the medical websites that I have looked at so far. You have answered so many questions that I didn't even realize that I had!
I'm so glad this site exists. I know that I will continue to read and continue to learn from your accumulated wisdom and experience.

By annwood On 2010.03.16 10:36
I am glad that you took time to go through the old posts. I am sure you experienced some of those "Aaaha" moments. While each case of PD is different there are many similarities, especially in the later stages.

You have your work cut out for you, not the least of which is getting your mother to accept what is going on. You sound like someone who can "take the bulls by the horns" and get things done.

I hope that you will stay with us. We will help and encourage you when you ask.

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