Dad wants his car
I am working with a family where both parents have dementia. The father is becoming obsessive with getting his car back. It was removed and is currently being stored at one of the son’s houses. The father is calling his son 20 or more times per day, demanding to have his car back. The son has been trying to use logic in his responses, telling his father that the doctor said he is no longer allowed to drive and that he would feel guilty if he hurt someone. This is not working as logic and reason are no longer useful in a situation like this.
We thought about bringing it back to the house and disconnecting the wires but his son said he will just call AAA.
I educated the son about this and we are coming up with some alternative strategies, but this is tough.
Here is a suggestion that was given to me by a local dementia expert.
1) Get a note from the doctor saying that your father has dementia and cannot drive
2) Take the note to the police department and tell them that they may be receiving a call from your father saying his car was stolen.
3) Ask the police to respond by saying that they will investigate it and play along with it. They should act as if the car was stolen
4) A few days later, have someone call your dad pretending to be the police saying something like “This is Sgt. Wilson. We have found your truck but unfortunately, it was set on fire and has been destroyed. Where would you like us to tow it (then give him a few options of junkyards)
I think that the answer above could work, however I am not comfortable with someone pretending to be a police officer. The son could keep the car at his house with the battery disabled and tell his dad it’s inoperable. Dad could come look and visit the car to confirm it’s not stolen, but not be able to drive. In this case, I think it would be ok for the son to say he is looking into getting it fixed.
On a personal level, we had a very challenging time with our own dad refusing to give up driving and access to his car(s). He was a mechanic by trade and loved to tinker on his cars. It became very apparent that he was no longer driving safely. Talking to Dad about his risk to himself and others helped very little as he continued to proclaim “his driving was fine.”
We approached the issue by having his heart physician write a letter to DMV stating that Dad should be required to have a driving, visual and written test and recommend to temporarily suspend his license. This was small town Idaho so we had a helpful office manager who knew Dad well and was happy to help. We helped with the language.
Dad was furious when he received the letter and refused to comply, initially, but seemed to take it better from his physician than from his kids. He did understood and accepted that he could be arrested if he was stopped while driving. THAT seemed to be our inroad and finally, a redirect.
The argument at least was redirected from being the car issue and our dad’s anger was redirected from us to his doctor and the DMV. Dad did quickly agree to take the written and visual test and failed both. He would still bring it up at every opportunity for the short term and we directed him to call the DMV and provided the number. He never called and the conversations dwindled.
It might be worth a shot assuming the client would struggle with the written test as the visual/driving test as well.