Let’s Park the Car

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Oh boy. This is a follow up to a previous post about Jim losing the car keys when he took the dog for a walk….

Today I received an e-mail from a reader. She let me know her child attends the elementary church school  located at the end of our street. She mentioned a message sent out today about a set of keys that were found on the corner and were at the church office. I knew as soon as I read the message that those were Jim’s keys. And yes,  they were indeed Jim’s keys. Complete with the little key fob to help us find them when they are lost.

I was at once elated to have found these keys with the help of someone that had read my words and put two and two together. She mentioned in her message that she often sees him walking by with the dog. Are you getting the same sense of community that I am getting? I feel so protected and looked after. Something I don’t feel with my husband, for obvious reasons.

I was also completely confused and sad. How was it Jim was so certain the keys had been in the trashcan? He continues to say that he heard it beeping when he pressed the button. But obviously and thankfully that wasn’t the case.

Now, on to the elephant in the room….Jim driving. We have limited his driving to close places and familiar roads. But this decision is mine to make. Remember, he was tested last July and passed the four hour test. But I have seen his decline, our friends have seen his decline and our children have seen his decline. He is not the same man that took that lengthy and thorough examination last year.

It is easy to say, ”He shouldn’t be driving, so just don’t let him drive.” There are many ramifications that come along with this decision. The least of which is helping chauffer the children to and from, helping with grocery shopping, running quick errands and providing a back up when I am not home and Frances misses the bus or needs to be picked up from school. The main thought is the deprivation from this point forward of independence for Jim. Without the ability to grab a set of keys, start the ignition and put the car in gear, Jim is completely and 100% dependent on someone else to get him anywhere. I wouldn’t trust him to navigate the bus system. I suppose he could take a cab, but again, there is a bit of dependency on someone else to provide the transportation. This is a weighty issue and I know the answer, but I really don’t want to be the one to pull the trigger.

Thankfully, Jim is a kind and gentle soul. He goes along easily (99% of the time) with my decisions and accepts that I am making the best decisions for our family. I have discussed his driving, or not driving, with him and he simply said, “ok.” Yes, I do know how lucky I am. Yes, I know how many caregivers go through torturous times with taking the keys from a loved one. I am lucky. But then again, not so much.

As if the emotional roller coaster I have been on the past couple of months hasn’t been enough, I now am at that crossroads I have been dreading for a long time. With our very hectic and busy schedules, only having one driver is going to make things much more complicated. I have known this day was coming, but it was always sometime in the future and I was trying to focus on the “right now” moments.

I would rather take his car keys from him a day too early than a day too late. That is the only solace I can keep repeating to myself to help me stay focused and true to what this decision is being based on.

Again, this life sucks. This disease, sucks. This all just really sucks. More for Jim than for me. And he seems to take it all in stride. Thankfully, that is definitely a bright spot in such gloom and doom. He has a great attitude and continues to help as much as he can and shows his family how grateful he is for our love.

As I struggle with this judgement call and the upcoming consequences of such a monumental decision, I must steadfastly focus on those positives and learn to appreciate those small blessings.

 

posted by Karen in Early Signs of Alzheimer's,Early Stages of Alzheimer's Disease,Uncategorized,Younger Onset Alzheimer's Disease and have Comments (21)

21 Responses to “Let’s Park the Car”

  1. Shirley says:

    Karen, I have to say, taking away the keys was a lesser battle in our struggle. When Wayne really started showing problems, getting lost one day coming home from work, then having to quit work, I sat down with him and explained that if he had a wreck while he was driving, WE could be sued for everything because I allowed him to drive knowing he had alz. I also started driving everywhere we went so that we could get there a little faster… I made it easy for him to give up. He agreed it was better for me to drive. I will be praying for an easy resolution for you!

  2. LLS says:

    You say the disease sucks more for Jim than it does for you. I politely disagree. He doesn’t understand how this is effecting him and everyone around him. YOU UNDERSTAND THIS. It effects everyone around him. That is what sucks about this disease. He will be just fine if you tell him not to drive again. YOUR life will be impacted. Therefore, you should make some changes and move on to the next step. Does your church offer drivers?
    I hear you. I understand you. I feel for you. Trust in the Lord that you are where you should be. (ack!! really? ) yes, because you are helping others who read your blog and shake their head and say, “yes. I get it. I am not alone.”

  3. Lee Ann says:

    Especially if there is an elementary school near your home. There has to be lots of kids walking on that street.

    I know it will be hard on Jim. But you’re right, better one day too early, instead of one day too late.

  4. Maureen says:

    One of the first things I noticed about my husbands driving, was that he did not park between the lines in a parking lot. Also, he kept veering over the lines, as he drove. When I would say something to him, he would say, “then you drive”, and I would. This was early on. Another time, I received a call from a police officer. My husband had backed into someone’s car at the shopping center and someone saw it, reported it, and my husband left the scene of the accident. When the policeman arrived at our house, I told him that my husband had lost his son in April and that he was grieving and possibly had not realized what he had done. I was becoming concerned. Then it happened. We came home from the airport, after a trip, and he dropped me at my office, I had to work that day . . . he no longer worked. He took my car and went home. He got into a fender bender with an older man on the way. They exchanged licenses and my husband left. But, when I got home, my car sat in front of the house, filled with glass from my shattered window. He simply left my car there, got into his car and drove to the golf course for lunch.
    There was about $3,000 damage. But, what was even worse, was that he had forgot to pay the car insurance, and our policy had expired. I had no idea . . . he was in charge of everything financial! That’s when I knew it was time . . . time to take over the bills, time for my husband to stop driving . . . thank God he didn’t hurt someone. That has been the worse part for my husband and he blamed me. But it had to be done . . . for his safety and the safety of some innocent person that God forbid, he could have hurt. That was three years ago . . . and it’s tough . . . but we go on . . . and in our house like I have said many times before . . . one day at a time being grateful for what we have . . . not what we don’t. xoxo Maureen

  5. Debbie says:

    Karen, like you it is wonderful to have support and caring people in the community. When people heard about my husband having Alzheimer’s, when they would spot him walking they would call me at work and let me know where he was. At times it was overwhelming, but never did I feel like they were judging. Later I got a tracking system that I put on his key chain and it would send me texts as to his location. This eased my mind and in the heat of summer I could go pick him up and take him home, get him something to drink before returning to work. Some days I wouldn’t make it back to work before he was off again. Some days I had top pick him up 3 or more times (thank God for an understanding boss and fellow employees).
    Like Jim, my husband was very happy and easy going, so when it took the car keys I explained why and reminded him that even if it wasn’t his fault any accident could cost us a lot and that I knew he wouldn’t want to hurt anyone. Don’t know why, but I only had to tell him 2-3 times why he couldn’t drive, after that he never tried to get behind the wheel. And he never let on that it bothered him. He would ask me to take him for rides, and he really enjoyed them no matter how short the trip was, (which at times I really only had time to go a few blocks). You will be able to tell when it is time. I had someone get upset with me when I took the keys, when I asked ” what if it was your family that he had an accident with, and hurt or killed your child how could I or you live with it?” They decided that yes since I was with him each day I really was looking out for his best interest.
    Karen, know that each of us has our own trials and burdens but you are helping so many people know that they are not alone in their feelings, that others are going thru similar battles and even thou there is no cure (at this time) there is help and hope for the care giver. May God bless you and your family and may you find some peace at the end of each day. Sincerely Debbie

  6. Kris says:

    Karen, it does really suck! I have a slightly humorous story for you along this line. Two years ago when my father was 90 he needed to get his license renewed. He had a relatively slow progressing of Alzheimers and we knew that he probably shouldn’t drive anymore but… My mother didn’t want to take him to the Driver’s License Department so she dispatched my hubby to take dad. After passing the eye test with flying colors, the worker said to my dad, “Is there any reason we shouldn’t give you a new license?” His reply “Not that I can think of”. My husband almost busted out laughing, my dad was happy with his new license but he never did drive again.
    Take care. Deep breath. Kris

  7. Kris says:

    By thhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHqx3-mfHAYe way, did you see Seth Rogan testify in C–span.

  8. Rita says:

    Karen,
    I completely understand. My son was allowed to get his drivers license early due to this same issue. He wrote a letter explaining that due to his dad having Alzheimer’s and his mom working 30 minutes away that he was not able to be involved in any extracurricular activities and that it was also a safety issue for his dad to be driving if say he missed the bus or forgot something he needed for school. The state of Indiana granted him an early license. I don’t know if every state does this but you might want to try this.
    Also trust your instincts on Jim’s driving. People mean well but they don’t understand your situation. My husband still drives at times. Lately he has just gotten in the passenger seat and let’s me drive. He usually knows when he shouldn’t drive and if he doesn’t realize he is being unsafe then he will pull over and change places. He’s not always happy with me but he does cooperate and then forgets why he was angry. That is one blessing of this disease.

  9. Karen, when Joe started asking me which way I told him that it was dangerous if he didn’t know where to go. He didn’t like it but it worked. In 2008 when I had my deep brain stimulation surgery I had the batter put on my right side below my collar bone. I told Joe I couldn’t sit in the passenger seat because the seat belt might harm the battery. We will go to extremes to keep their dignity. Love has no boundaries.

  10. Molly says:

    Karen- thank you for reminding us to look for the blessings each day in our lives. You are such a blessing sharing your story. And it’s a blessing that because of this disease, a community of people come together for strength, support and love.

  11. I remember the big driving decision also Karen! I had been wondering for sometime when it was time for him to stop driving. All the SAME reasons you had for not stopping. Finally he was in a minor fender bender in a parking lot, it was not even filed with insurance ,but that was it for me in terms of his driving. It was like, ok this is a sign, now is the time for him to stop. The worst part about the fender bender was that he could not write a note for the person. He could not physically write his phone number and his name so that is was legible. He had to get someone to help him. I just have a feeling that you will know when it’s the right time.

  12. Chris says:

    Karen- I am still battling the driving with my husband-passively. Dr. says no driving. I just keep putting off the 3 hour driving assessment. “Can’t test until Spring when the roads are clear” Whatever it takes to put it off. I’ve even added that Dr. doesn’t want him to drive. He still insists he doesn’t have Alzheimer’s and that when he passes the 3 hour test, he’s buying a new car!! I just smile and nod. None of this will happen, but no need to stop him from dreaming.

    I find it interesting that my husband’s decline began in July of last year and has been very fast since then. I read your posts and realize that you are just a couple of months behind me in your journey and Jim’s decline.
    The no driving is at first very difficult to coordinate where everyone needs to be. But I’ve found that putting him in the car with me to run errands, to take him places he used to drive to on his own has helped build that “new” relationship with the “new” partner that has taken over my husband’s body. Yes, it is still hectic and crazy sometimes, but I just have to find the good moments and treasure them-as I know that may be come few and far between.
    So, celebrate the Jim that you have as you are grieving for the Jim that you have lost. The new Jim might surprise you!!

  13. Linda says:

    My husband was diagnosed at 49, and that was 4 years ago. He worked as a CDL truckdriver through most of our 32 year marriage. Yesterday I surrendered his drivers license in favor of a state ID card. He has not wanted to drive for 2 years now…didn’t seem to understand what was happening, although I couldn’t fight back tears at the DMV. This is something many take for granted, but for me, it was a very big thing…a very difficult thing. My heart goes out to you and yours, as we fight this common battle. Prayers!

  14. Linda says:

    you are doing the right thing…sooner than a possibly much sadder later.

  15. Jill says:

    Not that our situations were the same, but when we had mom stop driving (which took some creative thinking) after the first week she forgot the car was hers. During that week I drove (husband would drive generally when we all went out) or our eldest daughter because she needed “practice”. You all continue in my thoughts. <3

  16. Hope White says:

    When I was writing in my blog I remember well the day I wrote about my father driving. I found that his driving was going to be the hardest obstacle and it was, you can read what I wrote in my blog here:
    http://hopegesnerwhite.blogspot.com/2010/12/driving-is-of-little-use-if-your-on.html

  17. Andy says:

    Three years ago my husband began to let me drive everywhere…this was after 40 hours of his hating to be the passenger. He still drove around town and to places he knew. He did not more long distance driving after getting lost and finding himself 150 miles from home. I had to go get him. A doctor told me that he should not drive at all this past summer. I sat him down and explained that if he was in an accident, even if no one was hurt, he wouldn’t be able to explain what happened and he would be at fault. Early in our marriage he worked as a police officer and had to deal with accident victims and drunk drivers, later as a criminal defense attorney he defended impaired drivers. I was able to use those incidents to convince him not to drive. He has a key to the car so that if I forget mine he can help.
    So now he needs to be taken everywhere and it is a drain, but at least he won’t run over a child.

  18. Mary says:

    Very difficult decision to be sure. Our family doctor advised, “You will know when it is time to take the keys away.” I am sorry to bring up another worry for you, but now that you have publicly voiced your assessment that Jim “is not the same man that took that lengthy and thorough examination last year,” you may have opened yourself up to some liability. God forbid Jim was to hit a pedestrian, but in addition to the obvious trauma to everyone involved, the injured party may have a case for negligence. I would hate to see you lose your home or other assets on top of everything else you are enduring. Also, think for just a moment about what might happen to your own children if Jim were to make a left turn across oncoming traffic without yielding. Maybe you should try finishing this sentence as an exercise, “I will have to take Jim’s car keys away when….” Is there an end to that sentence that doesn’t involve a tragedy? Thank God it seems Jim will be agreeable when you do make the decision. So sorry you have to go through this ((HUGS)). Praying for wisdom in your decision.

  19. Wendy says:

    Dan was told he could no longer drive the day he got his diagnosis a month before turning 56. He took it in stride…me, not so much! I now have to drive him places as well as a 21 year old daughter who has yet to get her license! I am hoping she has her’s by this summer. It’s too much.

  20. Elizabeth says:

    My husband gave up his keys a couple of years ago. He started failing in his 50s, was diagnosed, went on disability and lost his independence, freedom, and all that was familiar at 60. There have been times that he has hated me for taking his keys away and there have been times that he has been thankful. Regardless, the issue is HE MUST BE SAFE FOR OTHERS. That is the only important point.

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