Taking Away The Car Keys

Taking away the car keys is one of the hardest tasks in eldercare. Hard, grueling and just plain ugly it is. This was the day I really had to be The Lone Caregiver.  No one else could do it.  So I had to be The Mean One.

photo courtesy of istockphoto/3bugsmom

For about a month I lied to her every time she inquired about her car’s location.  “It’s in the shop Mom.”  She would relax, take a deep breath and say, “Oh OK.  That’s good. Thanks for taking care of that honey.”  There were too many other changes going on. It needed to be a while before I could tell her that she’d no longer be driving. This is called “therapeutic lying.” Look it up. Really. There is such a thing.

But therapeutic lying couldn’t go on forever about such a thing as car keys.  So, I broke out in a sweat and finally told her.  But then she’d forget we had that conversation and wonder AGAIN where her car was.  And AGAIN I’d break out in a sweat and tell her. It was horrible.

Due to Alzheimer’s, it took a long LONG time for it to settle into the long term memory, the knowledge that she had lost her car, the symbol of independence. She was so very sad about losing her beautiful red Chevy Malibu. So I’ve kept it and drove her around in it for the past three years.  She loves when I pick her up in HER car. But despite its low mileage, it recently became too dangerous to drive due to a recent recall and no parts to fix it.  So we traded it in for a “new to us” used car, saying goodbye to her good ‘ol Malibu.

This goodbye to the Malibu reminded me of a short journal entry I made back when I first took her keys away.  That was then and it was hard. Now she loves to be driven around and so drive her around I do, most recently up 285 in our shiny zippy car. She loved it. I can’t wait for J#3 (my sister) to come visit so she too can zip Mom around.

Enjoy this short but endearing journal entry where I found a few friends in a car repair shop.

December 11, 2011: Taking Away The Car Keys

Upon realizing that the car belonged to her, not to me, the service technician asked, “So, did you have to take the car keys away?”

How did he know this? Seriously, how did he know this?!??

He continued. “Don’t let the feelings of guilt take over. You did the right thing.” His kind eyes and broad smile asked me to ask him. I took the leap. “You recently had to do this as well, didn’t you?” He nodded. I felt so known and understood in this moment. Loneliness slipped away.

All the while this conversation was being had, the cashier stood to the side, listening quietly. Then with a brave burst of energy she joined in. “I just had to take my Mom’s keys away too! She went partially blind. She is mad at me because she thinks she can get to the grocery store on her own.”

She is mad at me. Oh boy did I understand what she was saying. We continued our exchange of understanding, of mutual support and encouragement.  IT WAS AWESOME.

There is a community of people doing what I’m having to do. And today, they were at the Chevy repair center. There are gifts to be found. I need the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

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