Assessing Dad’s Driving Ability as His Parkinson’s Progresses

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by Mary Beth Skylis |

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Few things enable personal freedom as much as a car. When you live in the great automotive state of Michigan, just a short one-hour drive from the headquarters of companies like Ford and General Motors, this reality seems even starker. People use vehicles to go to the grocery store, church, doctors’ appointments, and just about everywhere else. Public transportation isn’t always an option here, even if you really need it. Car culture permeates our state.

So what happens if you can no longer drive safely, or simply don’t want to worry about controlling a vehicle? What happens if the people you love start to give you a look that suggests they don’t want you to drive anymore?

This is a common reality for people with Parkinson’s disease. Many reach a day when they hang up their car keys for the last time, due to Parkinson’s symptoms or side effects of medication. Some people are able to enlist the help of a caregiver or loved one to arrange rides to the doctor’s office or boxing classes. Others aren’t so fortunate.

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Deciding When It’s Time to Retire the Car Keys

My dad, who has Parkinson’s, is still driving in Michigan, and I don’t currently have concerns about his ability to do so. But I also realize that he’ll face this dilemma in the future. He already nudges my sister to drive when he has a long commute to the neurologist. My mom drives the two of them to church most times. Dad seems to be slowly giving up control of the wheel.

I’ve read that some caregivers will encourage their loved one to have their driving abilities assessed, as it can be challenging to evaluate our own abilities. Some patients give up their keys voluntarily. As for Dad, he seems conscious of his relationship with driving. And he has a stable support system to get him where he needs to go.

But if there comes a day when he needs help with transportation and our family can’t provide it, I find comfort in knowing that there are a few additional options. ComfortCare, for example, provides nonurgent transportation to medical facilities in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Rose’s Agency Home Care provides transportation and other types of assistance to people in the Los Angeles area. Similar companies exist across the country.

It’s my hope that we’ll be able to provide Dad with the independence and freedom he needs for as long as possible. Getting creative with transportation options may help us do just that, even as his Parkinson’s progresses and his body changes.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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