Thursday, December 22, 2011

Damage Control

This is what happens when you jump the curb at a shopping center. 

My poor mother, on her way to her weekly hair appointment yesterday afternoon, attempted to park in front of the dry cleaner's next door to her salon. The poor thing says she has no idea what happened. "The car (a 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe) just shot forward," she told me and the police. I suspect she accidentally stepped on the gas instead of the brake, though she swears she no feet on any pedal at the time. Luckily, no one was hurt and amazingly, her car suffered only minor damage: a fist-sized dent in the right fender; a broken parking light and a few scratches to the bumper. A true testament to the safety of the Santa Fe (I drive one, as well). And to top it all off, after the police and EMT's left, she went and had her hair done!

Of course, this isn't the first time this has happened. She did the same thing last summer at my house, running into my shed and destroying a small table and chair, that time admitting she accidentally put the transmission into 'Drive' instead of 'Reverse.' And a just few weeks ago, she grew very confused and upset in the parking lot of another local shopping center while we were out Christmas shopping. I ended up taking over for her and extricating the car from the corner in which she'd trapped herself, but she insisted on driving home and scaring the crap out of me while doing so.

Mom's only 70; hardly old by today's standards. But her health is not the best. You may remember an incident in February of 2010, where I found her in diabetic shock, resulting in a week's stay in the hospital. Severe arthritis in her knees makes walking difficult and 50+ years of heavy smoking have impacted both her heart and lungs. Her hearing is going, though she refuses to admit it and since retiring, these conditions only seem to have worsened. 

My first reaction to yesterday's accident was: "I'm taking away her keys." Of course, the mere mention of doing so sent her into paroxysms of anger and denial. But I am afraid she is a danger to herself and others and it's only a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured. So I am asking you, dear readers, what would or have you done in similar situations? Anyone else out there caring for an ailing, elderly and exceptionally stubborn parent?  Any advice you have is greatly appreciated.

More, anon.


Anonymous said...

Oh please take the keys and the car away. Driving is dangerous for everyone already, and your mom on the road isn't helping things, for herself or anyone else. Find someone to take her out regularly so she won't feel like she's dependent on you. Please stop letting her drive!

David said...

You know, it's hard to say. My Mom is 76, but she's in good health. She still drives, though my step-dad does most of that, and he's 75.

These are the times children dread, when they must become the parents to their parents. But like most elderly people, the car is their last thread of independence. Take it away, and for them, they might as well die. Because the next step -in their mind- is the Rest Home.

I cannot offer advice, but go with what you think is best.

Sorry. But I'm glad she's okay!

Michael Offutt, Supra-Genius said...

I would take away the keys. She's becoming a menace and someday she'll run over someone. There comes a time and a place when we must do things that are difficult. My mother is far more gone than yours, is schizophrenic, has dementia, and long ago we took away the keys. Sometimes she still manages to find them and goes for a drive. My dad doesn't want to put her in a home yet because he has a little money and the home will suck him dry. That's always been my advice to him "dad she belongs in a home". He doesn't listen. Because of my mother's antics I only visit like twice a year now. It drains me completely to do so.

DeepBlue said...

What a difficult situation! I'm lucky that my mom voluntarily canceled her license some 6 years ago before her 70th birthday, but we didn't have a car then anyways!!!

My neighbour had open heart surgery a couple of years ago and he is often taken with bits of vertigo yet he still drive his car. And it is very hard to have a doctor sign the papers required to legally cancel someone's license.

I would let her know clearly my position on this matter explaining her that she is becoming a danger to herself and other people, but after that, it is up to her. She is a "mature adult" after all.

I just recently learned that I cannot take my mother inconsideration on my shoulder. I told her that if she doesn't take care of herself, will come a time when I won't be able to care for her any longer. It's working... so far!

Wish you the best.

Sean said...

I'm glad your mom is alright. With my dad, we had him drive more bc he wasn't driving enough but then he passed out while driving (heart problem that led to getting a pacemaker) and took out a transformer and shut down the main two-lane road in the Pocno's for almost 10 hours. Just the car was hurt but since then he doesn't drive at night or in bad weather - he's 79 now.
There are many online resources to help you and speak with her doctor if he/she knows her well.