You know it's often been said that America is a car culture. Driving is so ingrained in who we are. It represents freedom, it represents opportunity, capability and responsibility. It's how we get to work. It's how we get our groceries and see our families. It's been estimated that the average American drives 293 hours a year. But what happens when this privilege becomes a risk? What happens when someone really shouldn't be driving anymore? Now I'll tell you from a decade of experience in this industry one of the greatest fears among families of a loved one who has dementia is that he or she will be in an accident or will get lost when driving. So we should consider how dementia affects daily life. Well those effects are very far reaching. And the things that a person was once proud to do are no longer possibilities. And caregivers for loved ones with dementia have more tasks and responsibilities which can feel overwhelming to them, but it's crucial that that caregiver keeps an eye on their loved one's ability to operate that vehicle. Now I'll go over some signs to be aware of. But first let me give an anecdotal example of what I've seen happen when a person with dementia is allowed to get behind the wheel of that car.
In other videos in this series I've talked about the warning signs of wandering. One sign is when a loved one with dementia begins to talk about going home even when he or she is already at home. So we had a client whose husband was driving to do an errand a few miles from their house. It's a very simple errand and once he began driving he became disoriented and tried to find his way home. Now obviously after a period of time his wife began to be worried and she started calling family and friends. And later that evening he was found at a gas station about an hour east of their house telling the attendant that he was lost and was trying to find his way home. And this simple errand had become a very very frightening journey for this gentleman and his family. So remember dementia is a progressive disease. Now I might level out for a while, but the symptoms won't get any better. And because of this fact caregivers can expect the symptoms to worsen over time. Now here some signs of some progression in some signals that the time is right to have the conversation about giving up driving altogether. Now a person with dementia might already be aware that driving is scary. He or she might feel fearful or anxious about driving, especially over long distances or to unknown locales or at night. So this is a great time to offer up other suggestions like setting up a Lyft or an Uber account. Organizing a carpool system or utilizing a car service. And once the solution is determined. Then you take away the option of them driving themselves. Don't wait until the progression of the disease wipes clean this moment of clarity of thought.
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Here are some signs that driving is no longer an option. If a loved one gets lost or disoriented in their local environment like a grocery store or loses the car in the parking lot regularly, these are signs that it's time to have the conversation. If there's trouble staying in lanes or an increase in tickets and fender benders these are signals it's time to stop driving. You can also look for signs of mental and physical decline: uncontrollable shaking, poor balance, compromised eyesight. These are all indicators of disease progression, and remember medications may have appropriate warnings about not operating a vehicle while under the influence. So how do you prepare to have this conversation? And as you can already gather this is a pretty tricky subject to bring up with a loved one. Because too many people losing the ability to drive signals loss of independence. But keep in mind your loved one's safety is the objective here and the safety of those around him or her. because with slow reflexes and distractions those can be dangerous to other drivers or pedestrians as well. So begin the conversation by asking your loved one about driving and how it makes them feel. Does it make him feel anxious? Does it make him feel nervous? Then you can echo answers back something like, "I'd be nervous too." Offer some solutions to the problem. Say things like, "Mom, I'm happy to drive you to the doctor just let me know when and where and I'll be there." This puts your loved one in the position of being supported instead of feeling blamed. You could ask a third party professional like a doctor or a lawyer or the insurance agent to intervene on your behalf. This will make it less personal and bring the authority of the professional into the conversation. You can also bring in other family members who can express their concern. But please be sure to focus on the well-being and safety of the loved one and avoid being accusatory. And finally gather concrete examples of instances that illustrate why it's time for the loved one to give up their driving.
You should put the plan in place for the eventuality when your loved one can no longer drive. This way, you can let them know that getting around is not impossible. It's merely the mode of transport that needs to change. This conversation may need to happen over time, but do not allow for too much time. And remember to be firm; do not back down. Remember the safety issues at stake here. Now what do you do if you encounter resistance? Because you likely will. Don't give up. Stand your ground. And if you do need to take away the keys, find all of the sets of keys. You can also unplug the car batteries or disconnect the spark plugs. And make sure to put your own car keys in a secure place. Because people with dementia can be very very determined. If you do hire a professional to help with the driving and the transportation make sure they have a clean driving record and do background checks. Also be sure that your insurance covers everything. Remember don't delay having this conversation because your loved one's safety is at stake and our professionals at thoughtful care can help support you when your loved one is no longer able to drive. Thank you.
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