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Old 11-25-2010, 09:30 AM   #1
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Virginia USA
Posts: 9
Denise220 HB User
Early stages of mental decline

Iím a new poster and am dealing with issues related to the mental decline of my 84 year old MIL. Looking at the thread on levels of cognitive decline, my guess is that she is at level 3 Mild Cognitive Impairment with some signs of level 4 Mild Dementia. She lives alone in a single family home and will not consider moving. She is quite frail physically. She has stopped bathing because she canít get in and out of the bathtub; she cleans herself at the sink (an issue for a separate thread). And she is very hard of hearing and wonít consider hearing aids.

My question has to do with allowing her to drive. She does not have a car at the moment and cannot afford to buy one. Sheís in deep debt due to runaway spending on credit cards. We have control over her money now. We loaned her a car for a while, but moved it back to our house because she injured her arm in a fall and could not drive. Now after a couple physical therapy sessions, she is looking forward to getting the keys back, based on encouraging words from the therapist.

Apart from whether she is strong enough to turn the wheel, we are questioning whether she should be on the road at all. On the surface, she is fine for her age and can do day-to-day things like food shopping, going to the hairdresser, holding a simple social conversation. Having access to a car allows her to do this independently and would help keep her mentally alert and physically active. In my opinion, a lot of her mental decline is due to being alone and hard of hearing.

On the other hand, she is untrustworthy and repeatedly broke her agreement not to drive on the beltway to visit her sister. She lies regularly, which she has always done, and now it fits into her denial of her physical and mental decline.

If we return the car to her, even with restrictions, itís a big positive for her physical and mental wellbeing. Just before she fell, we obtained car insurance in her name, so she is insurable. My husband is uncomfortable leaving the car title in our name, because if she causes an accident, liability could extend to us. If we title the car in her name to avoid liability, we then lose control over the car. If we donít return the car to her, her life becomes even smaller since she lives in the suburbs with no taxi service. There is a county service for the aged that offers low cost rides. We have applied for it, but it is an unknown at this point. And in her mind, it is no substitute for her own car.

My question specifically is whether mental decline is possibly compartmentalized. Is it possible for her not to be able to do a complex task in the house (follow a simple recipe to make deviled eggs) but able to drive safely in an area familiar to her?

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