I addressed some of the issues of Driving under the influence of dementia in an article I wrote in November 2013. Back then I hadn’t planned on writing a Part 2 for this article, but after a couple local incidents involving DUI of dementia, I must provide the following.
Yesterday afternoon in a suburb of Seattle (in Bellevue), an 89-year old woman with early stage Alzheimer’s left her house for her normal daily routine of going to her favorite pancake house, then to several retail locations. She never returned home last night and as of today, she is still considered missing. I hope the outcome of her case is better than that of another elderly person with Alzheimer’s who also went on a brief errand, but never came home. (Update as of 12/28/13 6:45 pm: this woman was found safe approximately 16 hours after she first left her home. She was found 20 miles away from home. Unfortunately, she wandered 20 miles away from her normal driving area.)
On Saturday, December 21, 2013, Joseph Douret left his Seattle area home (in Issaquah), to grab dinner. He was reported missing the next day by his wife who stated that he never came home the previous evening when he left to grab some dinner for the two of them. Mr. Douret, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, was found dead in his vehicle on Christmas Eve. Police indicated that he appeared to have died of natural causes.
Taking away the keys to a vehicle – or getting rid of the vehicle as need be – are both very difficult tasks, but these are tasks that must take place if a loved one with dementia still has access to their automobile. “But he/she is only driving a few blocks to pick up a couple items; there’s no way he/she will get lost.” Unfortunately, what should be a routine drive can become a death journey because nothing is routine for the person with a brain addled by dementia. Nothing looks normal or familiar; the anxiety ratchets up several notches; panic sets in; and the countdown begins for that person’s last hours of life on earth. Even if the person is eventually found safe, he or she will have endured a very uncomfortable time emotionally and physically. The positive outcome of that incident, however, is that it will most likely be the catalyst that spurs people on to remove all driving options from their loved one.
Please make the decision today to take action and do the responsible thing on behalf of the person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.