GRAND Magazine - March/April 2019 - 15
caring for our parents
The art of stealing your loved one's car key
BY WENDY IRVINE
y grandma was what the polite would
call "a character" - if they hadn't tangled
with her of late. But if she'd been hosted,
say, in one's guest room for a week, you'd call her,
"home, where she belongs."
The third of nine, my Gram was born the year
the Titanic went down. She spent her life doting
on her Italian family even if she couldn't remember
who she was bossing around at the moment, so
we'd often hear, "Angela, Mary, Theresa, Michelle -
awww, what the hell is your name?!"
So - given how particular my grandma could
be - it was no wonder that her caregivers postponed absconding with her car key.
One afternoon, my curly-topped grandma
picked up her younger sister - her best friend in
life - to run an errand.
The sun shone into my Gram's eyes as she turned
left when she was slammed into by a small truck.
The police found my grandma's car upside down.
Thankfully the truck driver was fine, and my grandma
was still with us, but - that day - her gentle sister
kept going and didn't stop until she got Home.
In her last years, my Gram was a blend of her
feisty old self enveloped in a mist of dementia.
Not Just a Key
Stealing or "misplacing" (like, forever) a senior citizen's car key is
not for the faint of heart. True, it's merely a key, but for decades
that small bit of metal roared an engine to life transporting its
owner on countless trips to the grocery, the movies, the vet, the
MARCH APRIL 2019
A Brilliant Light that Leads
Back in the '70s she introduced us to the life
stages of adults with her groundbreaker Passages.
In the '90's, Gail Sheehy married Clay Felker - a
legend in the journalism world; nicknamed Mr.
New York - and became his primary caregiver in
his final decade. Felker died in '08, and a handful
of years later Sheehy gifted us with yet another
powerful lantern in which to illuminate a difficult
path, Passages of Caregiving, turning chaos into
Sheehy's book painstakingly details caregiving from A to Z including strategies for ushering a
loved one into living without a car. She interviewed
doctors and experts on ageing who emphasized the
importance of helping your senior citizen understand his diagnosis, which in turn, leads him to an
easier process of letting go of the key.
I love you too much to let you drive
library, and - over myriad summers - the seaside.
Snagging the key for good? Well, we're essentially extinguishing the engine's roar for good, squiring both the senior citizen
and the senior's caregiver down a portal layered in irritation, grief
and dread (for what's to come).
The art of protecting your
But once the person you're caring for has moved
beyond understanding straight logic, it's time to
employ smart strategies for spirting away a car key:
* Talk with the senior doctor. Some states require that the
doctor diagnosing dementia make a report to the DMV, which will
then send a letter to your loved one. (Many states also allow you
to make an anonymous report to the DMV.)
* Speak with your senior as if you're on a team. Discuss
the issue of the car with your senior as if you're noodling
Continued on next page
GRAND Magazine - March/April 2019
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