Hide the Car When Dementia is Diagnosed

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

After my parents licenses were revoked and insurance cancelled, they continued to drive. My brothers came to town to address the situation with my parents. It basically came down to them taking the keys and hiding the cars. To relive the drama, you can read the posts under “Operation Safety Net.” My dad found his car and somehow got it enabled. They moved it back into their garage last week. As I witnessed, much of the issue came down to pride mixed with the inability to remember they lost their licenses and don’t have insurance.However, my mom apparently wrote my sister to tell her Dad is now driving again. While I took them to the doctor last week and they were told over and over again that they are unable to drive due to their mental health, my mom reports that at this appointment, Dad got his license back.

At first I was really angry. I’ve been driving the parents around. I woke up early today to drive to their house to see if the car was in the garage. It was. That means they are still taking cabs – for now.

I figured this was a good opportunity to cover the most important principle if you must confiscate your parents car:

Hide the car where they are unable to find it. 

While we are appalled at our parents behavior now almost daily, the fact that they could figure this out brings a little pride – my parents are very clever.

Unfortunately, that just makes our job a little harder.  Tasked.

11 comments on “Hide the Car When Dementia is Diagnosed

  1. Oh dear, sounds like time to sell the car, and give them a cheque, and make sure you photocopy about 50 copies of the cheque so you can give them a copy of the cheque each time they ask where there car is, and prove that it has been sold, and the cheque given to them… It seems so wrong to have to treat them like children and take away their toys, but to probably quote what all parents say, it’s only for their safety.

    • At this point, we are going to hide the cars and believe that after 2 – 3 weeks, they will forget they have cars. Once we get guardianship, we will sell them and use the money to pay for the care they are going to need. Thanks for your note.

    • My mother was a alcoholic and drug addict still actively practicing at 78, and on a drug seeking binge the emergency department nurses took her car keys. As soon as my sister took her home she hired a cab and a locksmith and was back on the road within an hour! Even mentally impaired the elderly are very resourceful when they want something and require more vigilance than a rowdy teenager. My three teenage boys didn’t give us as much trouble as she did. But for her safety, we all got together and stuck to our guns. She got mad but she got over it, and when we took away her drugs and alcohol and took turns caring for her, she lived to the age of 84 and we gave her a nice home and cared for her ourselves. She didn’t die in a tragedy that we would have never lived down.

      • Hi Julia – Thank you for sharing. It’s helpful to know that others have gone through it. In the early days and weeks, it’s hard to believe that they will eventually forget / forgive what you did in their best interests as well as in the best interests of others.

        Best, Kay

  2. […] had a few contentious moments when they bring up the car issue but it quickly passes. I stick to the minimal facts, tell them we love them and I understand how […]

  3. […] When their licenses were revoked and they continued to drive, we parked the cars in a storage facility. […]

  4. […] six months, since they lost their licenses and then the cars, I have visited my parents nearly every Sunday to join them for brunch at their retirement […]

  5. […] Today, for the second time in two days, I figured out how to divert the confabulated facts my mom repeats about the loss of their car. […]

  6. You might do better to totally disable the car. (remove all the spark plug wires, for example) That way, they can go out to the garage and be comforted by the familiarity of seeing the car is still there, but they can’t take it anywhere.

  7. […] and suggested it might be time to give up the car keys. We did this twice over a two-year span. We eventually had to be sneaky and hide the cars because my parent’s continued to drive even after their licenses were suspended. They tore-up […]

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