What to do When Elderly Parents Won't Give Up Driving

Dear Len & Rosie,

My friend’s parents have recently moved into assisted living. Their vehicle is their last source of independence. The husband is 89 and suffers severe glaucoma. He has decided it is so bad that he will have his wife, who is 88, do the driving. She suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease and has not had a license for over two years. This is obviously a terribly dangerous situation. Family members have spoken with the two. The father is extremely stubborn and says the arrangement is just fine.


Dear Jean

The problem your friend’s parents face is a problem that all of us will have to face some day, simply because we live in California. Getting around here isn’t so easy if you can’t drive or rely on someone else to drive for you. Consider the situation of your friend’s father. Up to now he has enjoyed the absolute freedom to go wherever he wants, whenever he wants. When he and his wife can not longer drive, his world becomes a lot smaller. He’ll be limited to the places the shuttle bus owned by his assisted living facility will take him, or he’ll have to be driven around like a child by his own children, if they’re not too busy that day.

Obviously his well thought out plan of letting his wife drive him around isn’t fine. If she is caught driving without a license, the police officer who catches her has the discretion to have the vehicle towed and impounded for an entire month. Impound yard nightly rates rival those of most motels. He shouldn’t be driving either if his vision isn’t correctable to 20/20. And we shouldn’t discount the tragedy that could take place if either of them cause a collision.

If the wife suffers from early Alzheimer’s and is capable of passing a driving test, she could get a valid driver’s license, but given her condition it’s a temporary solution at best and it’s probably not a good idea to put her behind the wheel to begin with. If somehow she manages to get a license, or if the husband drives anyway because his license is nominally valid, then it’s time to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles. Your friend can pick up the DMV “Request for Driver Reexamination” (Form DS 699) at a local DMV office. It’s also easy to find on the Internet. Just search for “DS 699” and it comes up at the top of the search results.

Incidentally, anyone may use Form DS 699 to alert the DMV about any potentially unsafe driver. You don’t have to be related. You can even ask the DMV to keep your name confidential, although the DMV cannot guarantee this, especially if the person you turn in fights the DMV and subpoenas their paperwork.

If the husband insists on letting his unlicensed and ill wife drive, then bite the bullet and call the police. They might be able to talk sense into him. Or consider this: She can’t drive a car if the spark plugs are disconnected.

Len & Rosie