Expert Q & A

Getting an Elder to Stop Driving

Nov 19, 2014 10:38AM
Question: I am worried about my mom's safety while she drives. I would like to speak to her about stopping driving. How do I handle this?

Alzheimer's & Dementia Expert,  Carole Larkin
You start slowly and gently. You (not the person who needs to quit driving) are worried about their safety and the safety of others, not about them getting lost. Asking them how they want to reduce their driving, not telling them that they have to stop now. Offering for members of the family, friends, church members, etc to come and drive them to places they want to go, like the grocery store, the cleaners, the drugstore, etc. Offer to set up a schedule so that they will always know when they can do what they wish and need to do.

You will have to have this discussion several, maybe even a number of times in order to get movement from them off of where they started out, meaning NO WAY.

Many times that doesn’t work so, unfortunately the gloves have to come off for your care partner’s and your best interests. But first, you need to have some alternate form of transportation for them so they can continue to do what they wish and what they need to do. Be it family friends, a taxi service, a transportation services, city buses or volunteers from the church, there must be an alternate solution at the wait.

You could talk to their insurance agent about your concerns and ask them to have the person take a driving test to be able to continue having insurance. You could ask their doctor to order that they stop driving, and write it down on a prescription pad so it could be copied and given to them each time they wanted to drive. You could anonymously write a letter to the local Licensing Department to call the person in for tests, written, sight, and actual driving tests (although driver’s license bureaus don’t always pull licenses when they should). Finally, if you can get to a city where there are special occupational therapists that specifically  evaluate driving skills, they can run the tests and have a far clearer outcome that the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Finally, listen and be sympathetic to your care partner. They just lost the biggest symbol of their independence as people. They will be angry and sad, as you would be. Usually they will get over it, if alternate transportation for them is faithfully provided.

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Carole Larkin MA, CMC, CAEd, QDCS, EICS is a geriatric care manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues. She also trains caregivers in home care companies, assisted livings, memory care communities, and nursing homes in dementia specific techniques for best care of dementia sufferers. Her company, ThirdAge Services LLC, is located in Dallas, TX.   For more information, go to
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