Help! Any ideas for new member about Dad's refusal to stop driving?


Registered User
Jun 17, 2006
Indiana, USA
Dad is having trouble remembering/reconciling himself to the fact that it's been about 3 months since his driver's license was taken away from him.

Dad is 90, in good physical health but for his growing memory problems (there had been a few incidents of his becoming disoriented while out cruising the local Iowa countryside -- his normal way of enjoying living his days, visiting friends -- where the police had been called in late at night to help find him after he'd been wandering, whereabouts unknown, the entire day. He and Mom live in a very rural situation and have always been very dependent upon using their car, with no public transport possibilities nearer than 5 miles away. Luckily, Mom, who is 86, is remarkably healthy and alert, and so one member of the family still has her driver's license. Both Dad and Mom enjoy being connected to a large, rural community, but there are no family members nearby, and the lack of driving privileges is beginning to isolate Dad more and more from the activities he once enjoyed.

We live in a distant state, and though all of their (farming) neighbors love and care for Mom & Dad -- including them in as many activities as possible, still the situation may be becoming intolerable -- both for Dad and Mom. Dad always mentions to us (sometimes several times during the course of a conversation) that his license was taken away; yet Mom tells us she is reaching wit's end how to prevent Dad from jumping behind the wheel -- for his own and others' safety! (eg. another observed problem with Dad's driving -- though he feels his reaction times & skills are still perfectly fine -- was that on occasion he hadn't recognized that a heretofore 2-lane highway is now 4-lane divided, and he was driving down the wrong side. Admonishments from his doctor to only drive with a navigator -- Mom -- present, were not heeded; thus, the license was taken away.)

Which is where the situation stands right now, except that Mom has become -- at everyone's suggestion -- the keeper of the keys, so to speak -- so that Dad is prevented from (either willfully or forgetfully) just jumping in his truck, sometimes unbeknownst to Mom, and heading down the road to visit this or that friend or neighbor! They then "report" back to us that Dad was driving again; and we are not sure whether Dad doesn't remember that he is not supposed to drive, or whether he refuses to acknowledge the rule of law in the situation (since it seems to strike him as so unjust). Whatever, the upshot is the same -- he does not recognize that he is doing anything wrong; and he does seem to remember that Mom has the keys to the car. So now, apparently, the challenge has get the keys away from her so he can drive off -- no matter how much Mom reminds him of....the situation.

Of course, we are becoming increasingly concerned for Mom, because Dad has, (on only one occasion we have been told about, and, to our knowledge, never exhibited any violent tendencies), begun to resort to using physical force (arm-twisting) to try and wrestle the car keys from Mom, This will not stand. But we are very unsure how to proceed at this point -- how Mom wants to proceed.
We are heading out to Iowa tomorrow -- to put our heads together with Mom to try and figure out how this situation can be improved/changed/remedied.

We are wondering if anyone else has faced similar dilemmas? We acknowledge of lack of knowledge about the progression of Alzheimer's disease, and are just beginning to seek advice. We will be contacting their local senior center (which, we hope and suspect may provide a ready venue for socializing possibilities, as well as point the way for helpful local resources.) We are hoping they have a social worker on staff (or can direct us to an agency that could provide such guidance). We hope for ideas which would be helpful yet fall short of physically separating Mom and Dad.

Any ideas at all -- on how next we might best proceed on any and all of these dilemmas -- would be most welcomed. Thanks!


Registered User
Jan 4, 2006
Hiya Distantdaughter,
Welcome to TP. I know others have experienced similar problems so I am sure that you will get some replies soon.


Registered User
May 20, 2004
One of the toughest - excuse my speed but just flying through tonight - remove rotor arm from car, tell neighbours, warn garage not to respond to calls to repair etc. It buys you time to distract and redirect onto something else. Air might be a bit blue but it could save a life. Horrible to have to do it but has to be for the best. Been there with Dad and Aunty!

Good luck



Registered User
Jun 17, 2006
Indiana, USA
Thanks for the suggestions, Kriss; will check all out. Anything to help Mom keep Dad from driving, and also help get her off the hook (where I'm afraid we have inadvertently put her, suggesting she hide the keys) "policing" Dad. We're also hoping that by soon finding a different truck for Mom to use (Dad's has rolled off into the pond once already, and is definitely ready for the junkheap) -- an automatic, which she has requested -- and one which is more her diminutive size than Dad's, will help serve as another reminder to him that things have definitely changed -- for a reason, and for.... good.


Registered User
Jun 3, 2005
Hi Distant Daughter

A tough problem this. I remember from years ago when my Dad was ill (not AD) he was absolutely unbearable when the doctor told him he mustn't drive any more. My Mum never has driven, but even if she had been able to drive him, I don't think that would have improved his feelings about it - probably the opposite!

I know that I would be completely floored if someone told me that I couldn't drive any more. Like your parents, I'm in a rural area with little (useful) public transport & I seem always to be driving or about to drive.

Sorry, can't think of any suggestions not already made, but just a sympathetic nod at the situation.

An afterthought: You may find that changing vehicles goes a long way towards solving it. If, like my Mum, he really struggles to learn to use anything new (like an automatic car if he's use to a stick-shift one?) he may 'prefer' to be chauffered rather than admit he can't use it.


Registered User
May 20, 2006
North East

We had this problem with my Mum - friends of hers had told us that her driving was erratic and they were frightened to get in the car with her. Then when dad went into the hospice, we took the desicion to take the car away. Dad was too ill to drive it and mum was just a danger to other road users as well as herself.

It didn't go down well with her at all. She constantly blamed dad for taking it away and was extrememly bitter towards him. I was forever telling her that it wasn't anything to do with dad - that it was our decision as we were a bit worried that the car would break down and she would be on her own (tried to soften it a bit) She wouldn't beleive it and I'd go so far as to say she hated dad because of it.

In some ways, I can understand her anger - she didn't think there was anything wrong with her and it was taking away her independance. But it had to be done - what would have happened it she'd knocked a child over!

Even now- 2 years later - she still mentions that she can't go to the shops because dad took the car away! She's forgotten so much, but that seems to have stuck. I always felt so guilty that dad had to put up with her rantings, when he was so ill himself.

distantdaughter - you say your parents live in a rural area, but you have to put other road users first I don't think you dad will ever accept himself that he can't drive - you'll have to make that decision for him

Tender Face

Account Closed
Mar 14, 2006
NW England
Might sound blunt!

Hiya Distant daughter....

My first advice - move the car/truck!

If it is not accessible, no temptation to drive it - also stops mum having to hide the keys and go through the angst she is going through...

If there are great neighbours (and in this case the fact that are not 'literally next door' might actually help) could some of them have the car parked with them? That way, it isn't completely 'lost' to your dad.... someone is just 'minding'/'mending' it for him for now.....

Meantime ('cause it's taking such an awful long time to mend;) ) he gets used to not having it around.....

I hate lies, but I'm learning 'little fibs' sometimes help smooth the path......

Just a thought,

Love, Karen (TF)


Registered User
Mar 23, 2006
Hi There . I have had a similar problem with my partner thinking he was fit to drive. I got round this by changing the car to a completely different model He will not admit that he does not know how to drive this new car so covers up by saying how he is bored of driving and prefers me to act as chaufer. I know this solution will not be ok for everyone but it is worth considering . regards Jude


Registered User
Jun 17, 2006
Indiana, USA
Many thanks to all who have posted experiences and suggestions. I really appreciate hearing from others who have faced similar dilemmas with their loved ones' driving.

Because we've had to postpone our visit for a few days, I think we will be a little better armed with approaches to preventing Dad's driving which we had not considered. Certainly more to discuss with Mom, and Dad too, perhaps. Thank you!

I'm a little ashamed to admit that we are unclear exactly how much Dad understands about his dementia; we've never personally met with any of his doctors, and don't even know if he's been formally assessed to have Alzheimer's (but will definitely find out that, and much more, from Mom when we see her). We do know, though, that he is taking a medication we understand to be traditionally prescribed for that. Up until now, Mom has portrayed his growing memory lapses as mostly inconveniences to her -- when he would fail to return things to their normal places, for example, and so neither of them have any idea where they've gone to; or Mom's hearing the same "news" perhaps 50 times a day. But the extent and level of loss is getting progressively worse, apparently; and, as I mentionned, the angry response to "Mom's" preventing him driving (by the perhaps ill-advised tactic of withholding/hiding the keys) is now something we must figure out how to best forestall!

About his self-awareness of his dementia.....Dad does seem to realize that his short-term memory is getting to be very bad, often commenting to us as much -- even as he proceeds to act as if there is not (or will not be) a problem at all. And life still does proceed, most often, calmly and comfortably for the two of them; he doesn't mind Mom driving, even though it must rankle some -- since he was the primary driver for so long. But with respect to losing his license, I don't think he remembers the episodes (very traumatic to Mom) where he became lost and wandering; and therefore, I'm not at all sure he realizes the extent of the reasons which caused the doctor/police to take his license away. He has begun telling us (in any conversation we have -- by phone or in person) not only that, "You know, I can't drive anymore" (in the sense he realizes he's not allowed to drive -- even though he will immediately afterward often say, "but I'm a good driver," as if this really puzzles him) but also has now taken to mentionning the fact that "I am 90, you know." As if we aren't aware of that. So, it does seem that he may be making an attempt to create a more acceptable reason for having lost his license. Who knows. (Though we will try to get a clearer understanding of how he's thinking about this whole situation when we are out there. Perhaps the reasons are not entirely clear -- or acceptable -- to him yet, if they will ever be. It does break your heart to see him struggling through this......

Thanks again to all who've cared enough to listen, and help us be of help to both Mom and Dad.....