Car for sale


Karen and Jim, June 2012.

Karen and Jim, June 2012.

Jim isn’t driving anymore.

It wasn’t his decision. It was mine. Even though we have known this day was coming for years, it doesn’t necessarily make it an easy decision. Maybe I could have waited another week, a month or longer. Who knows?

I am tired of being in charge all the time. I really don’t like making such tough judgment calls.  I just took away Jim’s independence. I took away someone to help trudge the kids around. I took away something that Jim has been doing since he was 16. I took away his ability to grab the keys, hop in the car and drive to the store, the park, or across country (which we have done a couple of times).

In true Jim fashion, he is taking this all in stride. He doesn’t complain, argue or get upset. He trusts that I am making choices based on what is best for our family. How do I know what is best for our family? Sometimes I feel like I am 10 again and searching for my own path in life. I don’t feel old enough or smart enough or knowledgeable enough to be the one making life altering decisions for anyone. I suppose I took on that role the day I brought a child into this world, but somehow, I am still not sure I am the right person for the job.

Jim on the other hand has always been so sure of himself and knowledgeable about so many things. I relied on his input all the time. I realize now more and more how much I did rely on him. For so many things.

When it was time to discuss him not driving anymore, he just said, “OK.” That was it.

The next day, I brought it up again to find out if he remembered and to make sure he was really all right with this new way of life. He told me he thought he could still drive close to home. I told him he was right, he probably could. We hadn’t had any instances for concern other than his increasing decline in short term memory loss, inability to multitask or ability to make decisions. All things that are needed in driving.  Well, there was the time he sideswiped a trash can in the neighborhood which knocked off his passenger side rearview mirror. But in all honesty, the trash cans on our streets are sometimes really far out in the road. And not too long ago he got a ticket for running a red light. We got the ticket in the mail. It had pictures. I was dumbfounded. Jim DOESN’T speed or run stop signs or red lights. That was the very first ticket EVER for Jim. Of any kind.

I told Jim,”I would rather take the car keys a day too soon than a day too late.” And he concurred. I would never forgive myself if something happened to him or someone else because I was being selfish and not wanting to make a hard stand. Or give up his help with the transportation.

I am very, very grateful for Jim’s fantastic attitude. I know many others have to deal with all of the same issues I do, but on top of it they have to deal with their loved ones’ denial, anger and arguments. There are many, many facets to this disease. It is so much more than grandpa forgetting a name or losing a set of keys.

Decisions are anguished over. Lives are changed. Friends are called upon to change their daily routines and to volunteer to help. Dynamics of families are forever upended.

I sometimes feel that it is like being handed a life sentence in Hell. There is no hope of reversing the sentence or getting out early for parole or good behavior. You are locked up and the key is thrown away. It really just isn’t fair. I sometimes look at Jim and feel sorry for him. Especially when I think back to his love of life, his joy in his family, his love of travel and adventure. Alzheimer’s Disease is slowly robbing him of himself and robbing the world of a fantastic guy.

Since we made the decision a few weeks ago for Jim to stop driving, he has automatically volunteered to drive the kids somewhere or go to the store for me. I have gently had to remind him that he isn’t driving anymore. He seems resigned to the fact and is thankfully an amazing Alzheimer’s patient. I am learning that I have to plan further ahead and ask for more help. Neither of which are easy for me. I am learning as I go.

posted by Karen in Early Signs of Alzheimer's,Early Stages of Alzheimer's Disease,Uncategorized,Younger Onset Alzheimer's Disease and have Comments (12)

12 Responses to “Car for sale”

  1. Laurie says:

    You are doing the right thing…he should not be driving. My mother has has altheimers for 8 years, she when getting to bad to drive, somehow got many keys made and would just take off. Scary to find out she stopped on the interstate, changed lanes to turn off……my dad has taken care of her all of this time and now things are much worse. She has been robbed of any life, my dad is 80 and has been robbed of more time with her in his retirement, and it has torn our family apart. It is a devastating illness. Very hard to understand, because it doesn’t follow any rules….

    • LLS says:

      My mom said for years, “I don’t drive anymore” and was perfectly fine with it. She was very matter of fact about it. The problem was with my Dad who DID NOT TAKE HER OUT FOR DRIVES which was what made her happy. Take your hubby out for a Sunday drive every chance you get. Just because.

  2. Linda says:

    you did exactly the right thing at the right time..hugs

  3. Heather says:

    I have read your story and I feel so very badly for you,Jim, and your children. I am a friend of your friend Jen Johnson. My dad had early onset Alzheimer’s Disease too. He came down with it at about the age of 56. He too was an extremely smart man having majored in physics and he too had a top security clearance as a consultant working for aerospace at JPL. He actually wrote programs to trouble shoot problems on computers and this was back in the early to mid 80’s. I want you to know that most of the tears I shed throughout the 11 years he had this disease were for my mom, his caretaker, and not him. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel badly for him too, but watching my mom go through this terrible disease taking care of him and not taking care of herself was so saddening to me. It was very very hard and ultimately she didn’t take good enough care of herself and she passed away 5 years after him. Please take the to take care of your health because your two children will need you to be around to watch their families grow when your husband can’t. I am wishing you, Jim, and your children all the best each day during this very difficult time. One day at a time is all you can really do and what you are doing is the best for you husband.

  4. Lois Keller says:

    All the decision making is so hard! I made my Mom take a four hour test the city offered. They put me, my newborn and my Mom in a tiny room to get the results that she had failed the driving test. She cried, the baby cried and then I cried. But, we got through it and every single decision that I’ve had to make for her has not gotten easier, but it’s just something you have to do and you have to have great belief or at least fake it to yourself that you are doing the very best thing. Thank you for sharing, all of us who see your posts love your family and hope your stories will push the world closer to a cure.

  5. Maureen d. Connolly says:

    You will never have to have any regrets because you did make the tough decision! One of the hardest ones for me. I have no words. Just amazing courage on your part Karen. Hang in there! xoxo Maureen

  6. Diane says:

    I knew this day was going to be coming soon after the lost keys post. I know it was hard to make this decision. Pray for your family often. Luckily my mom just decided she did not want to drive any longer. It was a few years before her diagnosis of AD. Now my dad is to the point where he does not need to drive due to his sight problems and slow reflexes. He failed vision test so could not renew. Had cataract surgery hoping he will pass…..the adult children are hoping it did not help his sight that much. He is against giving up driving. Hope your post will help convince him. Much love to your family.

  7. Elizabeth Brewer says:

    As hard as it is, you made the right decision. I waited too long. He back ended another vehicle and that created a whole new set of problems in trying to cope
    with the insidious disease. May you have strength for today!

  8. Sandy says:

    More than 25 years ago when Jim’s mother had Alzheimers her license and car were not taken away until the day too late. It was a horrifying experience to have her gone 20 hours, unable to find her, then to get a call that she had driven hours away, was pulled over by the police going the wrong way down a highway. Her hub caps were gone and dash lights were out in the car. It still breaks my heart knowing what she went through. Even hours of waiting for us to arrive to get her followed by a court date. Jim’s older brother had his license and car taken away following a very minor accident. It really upset him, but in the long run it was the best for everyone. Karen did the right thing for Jim. What will be important is that everyone in his daily life ask if he wants to take a ride, whether it’s a quick one or not, so that he can keep on the move. Taking a ride to the store for milk or to pick up the kids are important routines he’s programmed to do even if he’s not the one behind the wheel. He’ll enjoy maintaining that routine.

  9. Sandy W says:

    Karen you did the right thing, for as tough as it was to make that decision. When it came time for my mom to stop driving due to ALZ. I didn’t want to be the one to tell her. Thank goodness her license needed to be renewed and the reminder card happened to be ‘misplaced’. It sounds like you have a very strong support group of family and friends to help you out. I hope you take them up on that. Thank you for sharing your families journey with us. May peace and strength be with you.

  10. Mary says:

    You are old enough AND smart enough AND knowledgeable enough to be the one making life altering decisions – you have just proven that! Bless you! I saw this list this morning – it’s not for caregivers, but it contains many suggestions that we caregivers should pay attention to:

  11. Elaine Ohm says:

    You did the right thing, though it’s ripping your heart out. It’s so TOUGH to be caretaker and (spouse, sibling, parent, child) of one who has the disease. Just know whatever you do, it’s out of LOVE for Jim. Take Care!

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