Driving, Early Dementia and Stroke
A previous excellent discussion on Accepting Change As You Age and driving safely, prompted me to start this new thread in hopes that it might reach more members. My dad’s career involved driving throughout the state as a divisional director. He retired at 70 yrs and enjoyed having a daily coffee time with friends in our very small town. My mom had noticed that he was getting more forgetful about some things…misplacing items, difficulty remembering some current events but nothing alarming. She usually found him working in the yard when she came home from school but one day he wasn’t home and when it got dark and he still hadn’t showed up, she called me very concerned.
In the late 70’s, we didn’t have cell phones or state networks for missing person alerts that we have now. The three hour drive was nerve wracking but we tried to stay optimistic that he would be home when we arrived. The next three days and nights were beyond description. Local and county law enforcement were alerted and a friend arranged for a helicopter search for his vehicle to no avail. On the fourth day, we got a call that he had been found on a ranch at a cattle tank 275 miles away. He was trying to fish using a coat hanger and had suffered a major stroke.
Until that fateful day my dad had had no problem while driving to and fro locally. My mom had not noticed any changes in his driving on trips nor had he become confused about where he was. We think that he may have had a TMI, became confused and made it to the cattle tank before suffering the major stroke.
The two sites @colleenyoung posted on this thread are well worth the read and plan. My daughter lives out-of-state and we have had the “driving discussion” and she phones me almost daily. I hope others will have this discussion and also be increasingly watchful if a family member or loved one begins showing signs of lessening mental acuity or changes in driving ability.
As an older, single adult, living independently, only a dire night emergency would put me in the driver’s seat of my car now. Neither my vision nor my reflexes are what they once were. The thought of having to stop driving altogether would be one of the most significant an older person may face. However, the safety and well being of all will make that decision well worth it if it saves lives.
This is a tough topic and one no one wants to consider but for those of us who are aging it is, like making estate and final arrangement plans, well worth the consideration while we are still able.