I got the phone call after MaryFlo dropped off groceries for her mother, Janice, who was 79 and lived by herself.
“I noticed that Mom’s car was parked all crooked in her driveway, and there was a big dent and a scrape that I never saw before. I asked her what happened, and she said she didn’t recall, that maybe someone hit the door with a shopping cart. But this dent was definitely not caused by a shopping cart. Mom was never a great driver to begin with, and I’m worried about her being on the road. When I’ve been with her in her car, she’s had some close calls. What if she gets into an accident and hurts herself or someone else? She shouldn’t be going out anyway, with this virus spreading around!” MaryFlo said.
She added that she knew her mother would never give up her car keys without a fight. “I know Mom wants her independence. But I want her to be safe. Do you think you can address this with her?”
I agreed. I had been working with Janice as her case manager for several years, and while our visits were curtailed at the moment because of the coronavirus, we still communicated regularly on the phone.
“Let’s talk first about how we’ll meet your Mom’s needs for groceries, medications, and doctor appointments,” I said to MaryFlo. Given the shelter-at-home restrictions in place, we could easily arrange for Janice’s groceries and medications to be delivered if MaryFlo wasn’t available, and medical appointments were now being done via telehealth. There really wasn’t any reason for Janice to be out driving anywhere, other than she was bored being at home.
It was as good a time as any to have the discussion with Janice, and it went better than I expected. She admitted she’d gotten scared the last time she drove, as someone had cut her off and screamed obscenities out their window at her. She had hit the curb trying to pull over. The main thing she worried about was how she would get to the senior center once it reopened.
“We’ll figure that out. I know it’s important for you to see your friends,” I said. Social distancing has been especially hard for seniors who live alone. Janice said she was calling her friends and family members daily.
MaryFlo was relieved when I told her how the conversation went, and how her mother had agreed to stop driving. “I’m glad you were the one to bring it up,” she said. “I think if I had, Mom would have argued with me about it.”
I nodded. Sometimes the conversation to stop driving is best started by a geriatric case manager, or another neutral party.
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