posted by Lisa Dillman
I recently read a heartbreaking article about a conversation that a daughter had with her mother regarding taking her Mom’s driving privileges away. Her Mom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and while her body was strong and very able, she just couldn’t remember where she was once she got behind the wheel. Mom had been involved in a series of disorienting trips that ended up with police intervening and taking Mom home. The daughter also received several very scary phone calls in the middle of the night, learning that the police had rescued her Mom on the roadway. Fortunately, Mom had not been in an accident yet and no one had been injured.
This article was so heartbreaking for me because I handled a case a few years ago where the outcome was not as fortunate. I defended a woman who was 84 years old and also suffering from Alzheimer’s who had gotten into a car against her daughter’s wishes and took an ordinary trip to the grocery store. On her way she forgot to stop at a red light and entered into an intersection t-boning another driver and killing her. There were also two young children in the back seat who were not killed, but injured critically not to mention they lost their mother. My client, let us call her Edith, could not register in her mind the devastation that she had caused. She seemed sorry, but you could tell she didn’t know why she should be feeling that way.
At the time of the accident, Edith had not done any sort of long term care or estate planning. The family of the person she killed in the car accident sued Edith and was able to recover all of Edith’s assets. The settlement/judgment against Edith was greater than her insurance coverage and devastated her entire life savings.
Whenever the issue of driving comes up in my meeting with seniors and their families, I approach the subject gingerly because I know it is such a tender one for the senior. However, I have seen firsthand how this tough conversation – if not handled appropriately – can devastate lives. So, if you are faced with this difficult conversation, I just want to encourage adult children and caregivers to be courageous and do what you know is right — even if that hurts your parents’ feelings or makes them sad or angry. The consequences of doing nothing are not something that you would want to live with.