Over the past year, we have had more adult children ask us how to approach their parent(s) about not driving any more.
It is one of the most sensitive and emotionally charged issues in dealing with aging parents.
We all remember back in 2003 when an 86-year-old man plowed through a Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and killed 10 people, including a 3-year-old child. Over 54 people were hurt, including two under the age of 2.
It was later determined that he had a history of reckless driving going back 10 years.
Or just recently, in March 2011, when an 83-year-old man killed his wife in a Kaiser Permanente parking lot when he lost control of his car.
There are countless stories of seniors parking their cars and crashing their cars through stores because they accidentally stepped on the gas rather than the brakes.
For aging parents, not driving means giving up their last semblance of independence. Many have been driving for 70 years or more. For a parent with Alzheimer’s, this is a long-term memory that is done out of habit. Disrupting this long-term memory and action can be very traumatic.
From the adult children’s viewpoint, they don’t want to see a tragedy like Santa Monica happen. Now, the parental roles are reversed.
So what do you do?
If you do not or can’t discuss this with your parent, there are two options to consider, according to a retired DMV examiner I spoke with.
The first is to speak with your parent’s doctor. California legally requires doctors to notify the DMV if they feel that one of their patients shouldn’t be driving for whatever medical reason.
Some of the health concerns on DMV Form 326, the Driver Medical Evaluation form, are:
• Eye problems
• Cardiovascular (heart) problems
• Heart attacks, stroke, or paralysis
• Dizziness, fainting or frequent
• Kidney disease
• Muscular disease
• Any permanent impairment
• Nervous or psychiatric disorder
• Alzheimer’s or dementia
• Seizures, convulsions or epilepsy
The second option is to submit DMV Form DS 699, the Request for Driver Reexamination. This can be done on a confidential basis. The parent will not be told who submitted the form. Commonly the parent is told that he or she has been selected randomly for reexamination.
DS 699 is available on the California DMV website under the “forms” tab.
Recently, one of our clients spoke with Mom’s mechanic of 30 years. She told him of our consultation regarding Mom’s state of mind and he stated that she had been getting in a lot of fender-benders and minor accidents recently.
This was a total surprise to our client as Mom had not told her this. Happily, when she suggested that Mom stop driving, she readily agreed.
Another client tried unsuccessfully to take the car keys away from his father with Alzheimer’s. He ended up physically disabling the car so it wouldn’t start.
In the first case, what our client did well was approach her mother with caring and understanding. She explained that she was concerned about her safety and wasn’t confrontational.
As she was retired, she also volunteered to take her mother twice a week to run the errands that she needed to do.
Which brings us to this point: Be sure that you have alternatives and options in place before having the “stop driving” conversation. Coordinate with other family members on a plan to take Mom and Dad around.
Also consider researching Para-Transit Access or other forms of transportation. This may also lead to the assisted living conversation as many of these places have transportation in place for their residents.
My wife and I were lucky with our parents. Both sets of parents voluntarily stopped driving. But we know that this is not always the case.
And remember, have your parent get a California Senior ID card at the DMV in place of a driver’s license.
Karl Kim, CFP, CLTC is the president of Retirement Planning Advisors, Inc. and is a Medi-Cal specialist. His office is located in La Mirada and can be reached at (714) 994-0599 or at www.KarlKimCo.com. He has submitted over 1,000 applications with a 99.9% success rate over the past 20 years with a 99.9% success rate. This is meant to be an educational article. Do not make any decisions solely on the information contained herein. Consult your tax advisor, financial planner and attorney before taking any action. We are not responsible for any inaccuracies or misinformation. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.