How do I keep my father from driving?

This is a common dilemma with someone caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia. You certainly want to keep your dad’s pride in tact and let him have control as long as possible; however, eventually anyone with this brain disorder will become unsafe to drive because of the degenerative nature of the disease. A diagnosis of dementia does not automatically mean that an individual will not be able to drive. Some individuals with mild dementia may still have the capacity to drive safely for a limited time, but, in all cases, periodic assessments need to be performed to determine safe driving habits.

Include your dad in the discussion about his driving and talk about your safety concerns, but don’t have the conversation while he is driving. Allow someone he trusts to navigate the conversation and choose a quiet place without a lot of external stimulation.

Your father may get very defensive, so have things written down that you have noticed while you have been in the car with him; dents or dings you’ve notice on the car or, if he has gotten a traffic ticket or motorists have been honking at him more frequently.

Or, maybe he has gotten lost going home, and you could note that.

Your dad will certainly be concerned about how he is going to get to the places he needs to go. Reassure him that someone is available to take him to his appointments and other places. Individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia often become very adamant about driving. If your dad does, get creative. For instance, take the battery out of the car or replace his car keys with a “dummy” set that won’t work. It is better using a little creative fibbing than having your dad involved in a serious accident.

Another approach is to have a physician refer you to a Driving Rehab Specialist. These therapists use vision, physical, cognitive and on-the-road assessments to determine if an individual should continue to drive.

The specialist could then talk with your dad and make recommendations for driving retirement. Driving Rehab Specialists are located at Baton Rouge Rehabilitation Hospital, Baton Rouge, (225) 231-3107; Touro Rehabilitation Center, New Orleans, (504) 897-8557; Lady of Lourdes, Lafayette, (337) 470-2859 and CREST, Ruston, (318) 257-4562.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.