Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Should We Move My Grandfather In With My Mother?”

My grandfather is 86 and lives alone in a 55+ community about a ninety-minute drive from my mother, his only child. I am about a four-hour drive away and I am the only grandchild. My grandfather does not speak to any of his sisters, so my mom, my stepfather, my husband, and I are it. My grandmother passed away about six years ago.

My grandfather is slowing down quite a bit and has trouble getting around. He walks with a cane and, sometimes, a walker, and generally has trouble with his legs. My mother and I have talked to him repeatedly about giving up driving, but (unsurprisingly) he refuses. He says he’s perfectly fine to drive and to stop bothering him about it. He mostly drives locally – grocery store, doctor’s appointments, and church – but occasionally will drive the ninety minutes up and back to my mother’s house. This understandably makes me very nervous, but I’m at a loss as to how he will function without a car.

The obvious answer is to move him up into my mother’s house, which my mother is willing to do, but the issue there is he has a lot of friends where he lives currently. He’s very socially active, going to church, club events, playing pool, going out to eat, etc., and I think it’s extremely important at his age for him to keep busy and social and to have things to do and to look forward to. If he moved in with my mother, he would lose all of that and would probably just sit around the house and read all day.

He is not technologically advanced at all, so having him use something like Uber or TaskRabbit isn’t really an option. He could get groceries delivered to him, but he would have to work with my mother or me every time to put an order in online, which isn’t very practical. He also doesn’t hear very well, so having a conversation on the phone is extremely difficult (which, in turn, would make coordinating things like grocery buying online very hard). And while he lives in the suburbs, it’s pretty rural as far as suburbs go, so there isn’t any public transportation. And we can’t just take away his keys without figuring out how he’s going to get around to do the things he needs to do, especially medical appointments, which he has probably once a week.

I don’t know whether to encourage him to move in with my mother and lose all of his friends and social life, which keeps his mind active, or if there’s a way we can keep him in the house he’s in without his needing to drive. Or if we should just trust him that he really is still fine to drive. Any advice or thoughts would be much appreciated! — Worried About Grandpa Driving

The first — and possible main — problem here is that you and your mother believe your grandfather shouldn’t be driving and he disagrees. What do his doctors say? If they are onboard with convincing him to give up driving, you have a better case. But if they support his driving, at least locally, you (and your family) need to think about how to generally support his independence while keeping him — and others — safe. I agree that moving your grandfather in with your mother should be a last resort as it would drastically alter his lifestyle which would inevitably lead to a host of other problems (potential depression, bigger health issues, rapid decline, etc.). So, you and your family need to brainstorm ways your grandfather can maintain his current living situation — or something close to it — without risking his safety every time he leaves his home.

Since you mention that Uber is out of the question because your grandfather isn’t tech-savvy, I’ll assume that Uber is at least an option where he lives for people who can push a button on a phone. And, really, that’s all it takes to call a car — pushing a button. Your grandfather doesn’t need to be tech-savvy to do that. A phone or iPad can be procured for him if he doesn’t already have one, the app can be downloaded, his payment info uploaded, and someone — maybe you or your mother — can show him how it works. Or, he can call you, your mom, or someone locally — does his senior community have a manager’s office or front desk receptionist? — who can call a call for him.

My father-in-law, who passed away a few months ago at 95, lived at home until his final days. Believe me, I can appreciate the challenges and emotions involved in trying to respect an elderly loved one’s desire for independence and privacy while also trying to ensure his safety and well-being. It is not easy, and it often requires difficult and frank conversations. You may need to enlist the help of his doctors. You might ask him to take a driving test with the DMV. Your mother will have to tell him that he’s only welcome at her home if he allows someone else to drive him there (and, practically speaking, that may not even be an option…). It will feel like you’re betraying him in doing these things. But you have to remind yourself — and him — that his safety and well-being are your priorities

That your grandfather is already in a community designed for seniors will make things a little easier. What sort of services does the community provide for its residents that might ease the transportation burden on your grandfather? Are there shuttle buses? Someone who can call a cab or Uber, as mentioned earlier? As you grandfather continues aging, it’s not just driving that he will have problems with. Does the community where he lives offer assistance in terms of home health management and food preparation? Does your grandfather have the resources to hire part-time help, on a daily basis or even just weekly basis, for a few hours to assist with running errands, getting to and from medical appointments, etc.? If so, then you (and he!) are lucky and your main challenge will be convincing him that he needs the help now.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

27 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Suzy April 7, 2016, 8:37 am

    My parents are a similar stage and we have just helped them move into a retirement community. In fact, just last month I set my stepmom up with Uber on her phone and she was so happy! She’s relieved to not have to drive and she can feel free to drink at dinner when they go out, etc. It gives them freedom to not deal with the hassle of driving, and they love it.

    My parents just moved into a retirement community as well. Those place usually offer lots of ways for seniors to connect and many social activities. My parents’ even has social media classes. I think you absolutely CANNOT move him out of the retirement community. The social and intellectual stimulation of having friends and activities are crucial to living well.

    Finally, it’s not easy to live with parents – who will take care of him as he declines? Your mother? That may be a reason she is not pushing this herself. Let him stay where he is and bring help in as needed. He will live longer and better.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    RedRoverRedRover April 7, 2016, 8:37 am

    This is a tough one. My grandfather’s 97 and he just now moved into a retirement home (he’s been living alone since he was 80, when my grandma died). He just refused to go into one, even though his own home is a complete mess and possibly structurally damaged (there was a flood in his basement and he didn’t do anything about it, just let it go away on its own). He still drives, and regularly shows up with dings and dents. It’s scary as hell to be in the car with him. One time he showed up with a brand new car, when he had just gotten a brand new car 6 months before that. So yeah, he probably totaled it. He won’t tell anyone though because he knows we’ll try to get his license revoked or something.

    Where I live you have to take a driving test every 2 years after a certain age, and he lives in a small town that he’s really familiar with, and knows the driving instructors, and he always manages to pass. His doctors should really be taking his license away from him, but they don’t. He also avoids going to the doctor as much as he can because he’s afraid of having his license taken. He’s at least realized that he doesn’t do well driving at night, so he’s minimized that. But still, we’re afraid he’ll eventually kill someone. What can we do though? The doctors don’t revoke his license, the govt doesn’t revoke his license, he won’t listen to us about it. So he keeps driving. It’s awful to think he might kill someone one of these days. 🙁

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    jnsunique April 7, 2016, 8:41 am

    I heard about a solution for this. Not sure if it would work in this situation. In the story I heard, the family sold the mother’s car and used the funds to pre-pay for a taxi service. The taxi service agreed to limit it to 3 drivers for her comfort and they took her anywhere she wanted to go. I guess sometimes she also took friends with her and she loved the arrangement. Almost like having a personal chauffeur.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Wendy's Sister April 7, 2016, 9:06 am

    Does the retirement community offer an apartment building or assisted living? He’s probably too independent to need assisted living, but many communities offer apartment buildings with many social activities, along with shuttle services to appointments, grocery stores, and social outings. They may even offer meals. Both my grandmothers lived in buildings like this. If his current community doesn’t have that, it might be worth looking into other areas of town that offer this. If your city is big enough, he might qualify for special transit services, which is a semi-private handicapped bus or car service that is cheaper than a taxi. For instance, here in Miami, it’s $3.50 for a one way trip. He might also qualify for free public bus riding. When I lived in a rural part of Missouri, they had a service called OATS, Older Adult Transportation Services. I don’t know the details of regarding price and if it was a set route or a door-to-door service, but your grandfather’s community might offer that as well. You could contact the county health department to see if they know of support systems for seniors, and there might even be something like a Community Action Corporation or Action Agency or something along those lines that offers community services for everyone.

    Good luck, and please submit an update to Dear Wendy so we know how everything turns out!

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Anon April 7, 2016, 9:17 am

    The LW doesn’t provide any evidence that her grandfather isn’t able to drive. Balance issues that might require a cane or walker don’t necessarily affect driving ability. I’m very sympathetic to the need to take the keys away from someone who has become unable to drive, but this doesn’t sound like one of those cases. In the absence of specific evidence that he is unable to drive safely — like a series of fender benders or close calls or personal experience with him in the car — it sounds like the LW and her mother are basing this assumption on his age and generally declining health. That’s not fair or accurate and doesn’t indicate a need to take his car keys away. I don’t trust the LW’s assumption that granddad shouldn’t be driving.

    Reply Link
    • MaterialsGirl

      MaterialsGirl April 7, 2016, 9:28 am

      true, and once you reach a certain age, you are required (in most states) to take driving tests for license renewal at more frequent intervals. As long as his doctor agrees and he’s passing those tests, and he feels comfortable, I think the situation should just be monitored. My grandma is the same age and she doesn’t feel comfortable driving at night or long distances, so she doesn’t. It sounds like the only real problem is the 90 minute drive to his daughters. Perhaps you can do a meet up halfway?

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover April 7, 2016, 9:33 am

        See my comment above – my grandfather is definitely not in a condition to drive, yet he manages to hold it together long enough to pass his tests. The license renewal test is what, a half hour or hour long? They don’t see his everyday driving. And his doctor certainly doesn’t. Not saying the LW’s grandfather definitely shouldn’t be driving, just that the fact that no one takes your license away is meaningless.

        Link
  • avatar

    Northern Star April 7, 2016, 9:43 am

    It’s not just your grandpa’s safety you need to worry about—it’s other drivers on the road. He will be stubborn, thinking he’s “just fine,” but when he runs into a family and injures someone, it won’t be “just fine.”

    I’m assuming here that you have strong reasons to believe Grandpa shouldn’t be driving and have witnessed his lack of skills in person. (Otherwise, you wouldn’t make this a problem…). I don’t have a solution, but I think you’re wise to be proactive before this issue becomes a BIG PROBLEM.

    Reply Link
    • honeybeenicki

      honeybeenicki April 7, 2016, 10:53 am

      To me it doesn’t sound like the LW has a concrete reason to believe that the grandfather shouldn’t be driving except that he has impaired mobility and is older. I have a bad knee that has been a problem since I was a teenager and often walk with a limp, but I’m fully capable of driving.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        Northern Star April 7, 2016, 11:12 am

        If it’s just the LW worried that this MIGHT be a problem (from the update below, she could be jumping the gun), then I agree with you. Limited mobility isn’t the problem—but slower reflexes and vision loss (if this is happening) are issues that come with age and can impact driving skills. There are definitely reasons to foresee a problem. And it’s better to be proactive and have peace of mind than wait until Grandpa crashes into someone and know you could have prevented it.

        Link
      • avatar

        Northern Star April 7, 2016, 11:14 am

        * I also don’t think moving Grandpa in with Mom is the solution. He should stay where he’s happy, and his family should figure out a way for him to get where he needs to be.

        Link
  • avatar

    Ron April 7, 2016, 9:47 am

    I have quite a few 80+ and 90+ friends. Some of the 90+, who admittedly are slowing down a bit, have been moved to their childrens’ homes, vicinities. They are mainly unhappy. They say that they are well cared for, but that they terribly miss their friends and their old support network. Even closer to family, they are lonely. It’s a tough choice. I’m not sure there are any good answers.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Juliecatharine April 7, 2016, 9:49 am

    There aren’t a ton of them out there but there are occupational therapists who specialize in driving. They work with patients to evaluate their physical and mental abilities in driving situations and can work with people who need modifications. It’s not a panacea but having someone who is trained to look at his driving performance/capabilities (as opposed to the dmv; no disrespect but it’s a different level of evaluation) might bring peace of mind to the LW.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    blink14 April 7, 2016, 10:26 am

    I think regardless of the services that may be available to your grandfather, the loss of independence by not being able to drive will be a huge blow and difficult for him to process.

    I would contact the community management and see what is offered for the older residents – grocery shuttle, meal services, driving service, etc. There’s potentially even a volunteer group, depending on the size of the community, that offers to drive the elderly to medical appointments, the pharmacy, etc. There could be a church group of volunteers that does that type of thing.

    If the community skews heavily towards people in their 50s and 60s, it may be worth looking to a different type of retirement community or building that caters more to older people, and therefore would like provide more options for transportation.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    LW April 7, 2016, 10:55 am

    LW here. Thank you Wendy and everyone for your advice so far. These are all great suggestions I’m going to look into!

    To answer a few questions, the community he lives in is just a 55+ and up – an “active lifestyle community”. There are no assisted living buildings to transition to; they are all detached ranch homes, with one clubhouse for activities. However that doesn’t mean there aren’t shuttles and other services, especially since his specific community tends to skew older as far as I can tell. I will definitely look into what his community offers. Where he used to live, there were buses for seniors provided by the county (the SCAT bus, which is a horrible acronym) that would pick people up and drop them off at the grocery store, etc. I can look into whether his current county offers something like that.

    As far as getting him setup on Uber, that could definitely work I think at home. But we would have to get him a smart phone instead of an iPad so he could request rides home when he’s out. And teaching him how to use the smart phone could be difficult. Plus getting him to remember to bring it 🙂 He already doesn’t carry a phone now, so it will be difficult to get him in the habit haha. But I could definitely bring it up with him and my mother and see what they think.

    As far as whether I’ve witnessed any scary driving behavior, the only thing I know of is he hit a stop sign once while turning, although I don’t really know any details. And you’re right, maybe I shouldn’t be assuming he shouldn’t drive. But with how much trouble he has with his legs, all it takes is one time hitting the gas rather than the brake and hitting a pedestrian, or something along those lines, and it could be really horrible. Just because he hasn’t had any serious issues yet doesn’t mean he should still be driving. It only takes one time. And I sympathize. I really really do. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to not be able to drive anymore. It’s such a loss of independence, especially given how rural his suburb is. But I just worry about the consequences of a slip up.

    I could try calling his doctor and asking the doctor’s opinion on whether he should still be driving, but you’re right Wendy that that feels like a betrayal :\ Calling his doctor behind his back? Ack. I mean, you’re right that his and everyone else’s safety is paramount, but that’s so difficult to do. I will definitely consider that though, as his doctor will probably be the one in the best position to know (I swear he’s there every week for something).

    Reply Link
    • redessa

      redessa April 7, 2016, 12:38 pm

      If you are going to call his Dr. be prepared to tell him (or her) of your concerns but do not expect him to give you his opinion. Unless you are specifically designated as being allowed access to your grandfather’s medical information, the Dr is bound by HIPAA not to tell you anything. I do think it’s still a good idea to get this on his radar though so he can address it at your grandfather’s next visit. And he might be willing to give you some things to look for (a generic guideline not necessarily specific to your grandfather’s condition) to know when it’s time to take his keys.

      Reply Link
  • honeybeenicki

    honeybeenicki April 7, 2016, 10:58 am

    I think Wendy and others have presented lots of options other than stripping your grandfather of his independence.
    .
    This might be kind of close to home for me, but I think you should really have a sit down with your grandfather. I lost my grandfather last June and shortly after that, my family pushed my grandmother out of her home and into my aunt’s home. She didn’t want to leave and was perfectly capable of being mostly independent. She could care for her own basic needs and care for the home (she’s never driven, so someone has always driven her around).
    .
    When she was forced out of the home that she loved, she seemed helpless. She sleeps until way into the afternoon (this is abnormal) and spends most of her time alone. I hate it. It makes me sad to see and I know she was happier where she was.
    .
    So, stop making decision FOR your grandfather and make decisions WITH him. If you have a legitimate reason to believe he shouldn’t be driving, set up something with a local taxi company (I like the idea above of using money from the sale of a car to pre-pay taxi services). Let him stay where he is, especially if he’s already in a senior community, so that he can enjoy a fulfilling social life.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite April 7, 2016, 11:15 am

    I feel like most 55+ communities have information available regarding senior services for people to age in place. Check if there’s anything available, it would not be fair to him to decrease his social engagement or your mother who would have a caregiving burden without considering other supportive options within his current home.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      Sunshine Brite April 7, 2016, 11:17 am

      Ah, just saw the update. Get him connected with area services like the bus, often those rides can be set-up in advance so your mother could do that for him once a week or so if he needs help with the calling. See about area grocery delivery and maybe some homemaking services to see if he can get out and about that way too.

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    Bostonpupgal April 7, 2016, 11:20 am

    Calling his doctor is not a betrayal! At his age both you and your mom should be checking in regularly with his doctor and up to date on his medical condition. Both my mom and I are frequently in touch with my 92 year old grandmother’s doctor and she’s sharp as a tack with no major medical problems. Medicare, any supplemental insurance, and any veteran’s benefits he has should absolutely cover a home aid, who can take him to the store and on other errands as well as do basic cooking and chores. Contact all 3 of those services and see what is available at his specific coverage. They field these questions all the time. Also call your local Bureau of Aging, and look if there are any senior advocacy groups or non profits in your area. They will be able to put you in touch with services to help him, many areas have cab like services specifically for seniors or other services free of charge or that they coordinate directly with medicare.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    PiggyPrincess April 7, 2016, 11:27 am

    I would also recommend connecting with a local social worker, maybe through the county. When we were evaluating options for my grandfather, the social worker we worked with knew of an amazing amount of resources that we were able to implement. I would also check with his church or other local churches, as they often have resources for members or the community. A church nearby me has daytime programs that include transportation.

    Reply Link
  • mylaray

    Mylaray April 7, 2016, 11:32 am

    I wonder if he’s friendly enough with people at his church that they could help him out with grocery shopping and taking him to doctor’s appointments. This is one of those situations where he/you need to outsource help as much as possible, whether it’s paid, through services for older people, or through the help of friends. No one wants to lose their freedom, but if he can get out and about enough when someone else is driving, that does lessen the loss of control.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    _s_ April 7, 2016, 12:01 pm

    Lots of great advice here. I just want to chime in and agree that moving him with your mom should be a last resort option, like if his entire town burns down or something. Otherwise, by all means, he should stay in the town where he is active with his church and social activity with friends – even if that (now or eventually) means he has to transition to an assisted living facility, or else have in-home help that comes to him in his current home. I cannot tell you how vital it is that he have these social connections. My own grandpa is 90 and all his friends from his younger days died ages ago, so for years and years my mom and grandma were his whole life. My grandma passed away last year, which meant he became totally dependent on my mom – expecting her to cook for him and be his companion, even though he lived in his own home 20 minutes away from my mom. My mom is a willing caretaker, but it’s been a huge burden on her nonetheless, to be his whole world. She’s only started to be able to get a break when he fell and broke his leg and was forced to move to an assisted living facility – and even now she still visits there every day and is his main companion, though I think he is MAYBE starting to interact with other residents there. Anyway, point being, you should exhaust ALL options that leave your grandpa with his friends and activities before moving him; others have already listed some great resources; options that I won’t re-hash, but please, investigate any and all, and don’t hesitate to call your dad’s doctor and express your concerns – possibly he can alleviate them, and if not he can be your ally in pushing needed changes.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    TheShrinkingMrsSmith April 7, 2016, 12:06 pm

    I’m an insurance agent in California. I’ve had lots of customers worry me over the years for being elderly, alone, and still driving.
    A few years back we had one that was out of control. His license was super restricted, and he was basically only allowed on the road from 10 am-2pm. He wasn’t allowed to have passengers, wasn’t allowed to drive without glasses, and wasn’t allowed on freeways. He ignored it all.
    The final straw was when he came in one morning, parked his car on the sidewalk, and came in with a notice from another insurance carrier. He’d been in an accident with a semi truck, on the freeway, and didn’t hear the semi scraping his car. When we took him outside and pointed out the giant dent and scraped paint along the passenger side, we had to have him feel it, like braile, because he thought his car was in perfect shape.
    He and his wife (who couldn’t read and never had learned) had outlived all there children and were alone (grandkids were across the country). He would trick his doctor into thinking he wasn’t driving by getting various neighbors to drive them to appointments. These same people would borrow his car (since he would leave it parked with the keys in the car out in front of his home) for drug runs and some other illegal activity that the car was actually involved in.
    We turned in notice to DMV to fully revoke his license after the semi incident, had to ask the company to nonrenew him, since he was such a risk, and actually had to call social services to get involved because we suspected the neighbors were abusing him and his wife financially. (We were right, sadly). They ended up getting much needed home care, and last I’d heard, lived their last few years safely at home.
    I say all that to say this:
    If you are afraid of someone being on the road in California (and several other states, including Arizona), you can file a report with that state’s DMV, and they will order a full exam as long as there is good reason. Sadly, I’ve had to help friends do the same on their family members who refused to listen to them, and getting DMV/Doctors involved was the best way to get that family member to listen.
    I’m an insurance agent in California. I’ve had lots of customers worry me over the years for being elderly, alone, and still driving.
    A few years back we had one that was out of control. His license was super restricted, and he was basically only allowed on the road from 10 am-2pm. He wasn’t allowed to have passengers, wasn’t allowed to drive without glasses, and wasn’t allowed on freeways. He ignored it all.
    The final straw was when he came in one morning, parked his car on the sidewalk, and came in with a notice from another insurance carrier. He’d been in an accident with a semi truck, on the freeway, and didn’t hear the semi scraping his car. When we took him outside and pointed out the giant dent and scraped paint along the passenger side, we had to have him feel it, like braile, because he thought his car was in perfect shape.
    He and his wife (who couldn’t read and never had learned) had outlived all there children and were alone (grandkids were across the country). He would trick his doctor into thinking he wasn’t driving by getting various neighbors to drive them to appointments. These same people would borrow his car (since he would leave it parked with the keys in the car out in front of his home) for drug runs and some other illegal activity that the car was actually involved in.
    We turned in notice to DMV to fully revoke his license after the semi incident, had to ask the company to nonrenew him, since he was such a risk, and actually had to call social services to get involved because we suspected the neighbors were abusing him and his wife financially. (We were right, sadly). They ended up getting much needed home care, and last I’d heard, lived their last few years safely at home.
    I say all that to say this:
    If you are afraid of someone being on the road in California (and several other states, including Arizona), you can file a report with that state’s DMV, and they will order a full exam as long as there is good reason. Sadly, I’ve had to help friends do the same on their family members who refused to listen to them, and getting DMV/Doctors involved was the best way to get that family member to listen.

    Reply Link
  • Cassie

    Cassie April 7, 2016, 12:22 pm

    If your grandpa is active in church, that’s another place where you may find some help. A lot of times at churches, the church members will volunteer and work together to help out members of the congregation. So there might be a handful of people that would happily rotate driving your grandpa to his appointments, help him order groceries online, etc. because they care about him.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Anon April 7, 2016, 8:16 pm

    One specific idea — if the concern is that granddad doesn’t have sufficient control of his feet to use the pedals effectively, but he’s otherwise OK, cars can have hand controls installed so you don’t need to use your feet. That’s very common for people with physical disabilities that prevent them from using standard controls in a car.
    .
    Taking away the ability of someone who lives in a suburban area to drive is likely to have severe consequences for him. That’s not something to do lightly, even if you provide taxi service. The loss of independence is hugely problematic. If there’s a serious and evidence-based concern that granddad can’t control the vehicle with his feet, that doesn’t mean he can’t drive. It means he needs hand controls installed.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Hazel April 7, 2016, 10:51 pm

    I keep on seeing people mention uber, but if there’s uber there’s probably a taxi service, even if it’s small. He can call them on his phone (landline if he doesn’t have a cell) and they will send out a taxi. You can schedule round trips etc, and the price difference between uber and a taxi service isn’t that much–it just takes longer to pick up which is why it’s better to schedule well ahead of time. Taxis might also be easier for an older person, as their cars are easily recognizable as the car you’re supposed to get into!

    Reply Link

Leave a Comment