Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries – Older Drivers & Memory Problems
Here, the challenges of an older driver when his licence is revoked because of memory problems.
Q My husband, who is 75, recently had his driver’s licence revoked because of memory problems. I completely understand how much of a blow it is to his ego, not to mention a big inconvenience, but it’s turned into more than that. He’s become sullen and stopped taking an interest in things he really used to enjoy, like walking the dog and curling. This has been going on for several months, and I’m worried. I don’t know whether to seek professional help or wait a while and see if he improves once he gets used to the idea.
—Angela, Waterloo, Ont.
A There’s no easy answer to that question. Everyone responds to life-changing situations in different ways and takes different lengths of time to adjust. How long should your husband take?
“There’s no formula,” says John Robertson, who’s worked in the field of mental health for more than 25 years and is currently executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Huron Perth branch. “Certainly, he needs time to grieve that loss, but if his behaviour concerns you and he doesn’t seem himself, there’s a conversation that needs to happen – and the earlier the better.”
Depression is one of the most common mental health problems among seniors, but all too often it goes unrecognized and untreated. Loss of interest in activities is just one of many symptoms. The beginning stages of Alzheimer’s can also show up as depression, so that possibility might also need to be explored. Robertson suggests you begin with a gentle, non-judgmental talk with your husband to see if he’ll acknowledge there’s an issue and that he’s “not himself.” If he denies anything’s wrong, you may find it tough to get anywhere and be forced to wait until he does.
“If you push too hard, you’ll probably just alienate him,” says Robertson. “The thing is, if it’s depression it’s unlikely to get better. It’s more likely to get worse.”
Hopefully, your husband recognizes there’s a problem and he’ll agree to seek help, starting with a visit to the family doctor. (The only time for forced intervention is if a person is a risk to themselves or someone else.) A variety of treatment options are available for depression and studies have shown the recovery rate is between 60 and 80 per cent when talk therapy and medication are used in combination. Losing your licence is a huge deal and clearly this life-changer is having a negative impact on you both.
Send Diane a brief description of your dilemma, along with your first name and where you live, to [email protected]
A professional journalist for more than 25 years, Diane Sewell has written for some of the top newspapers and magazines in Canada and is a baby boomer herself. Her new blog “Boomerangst, Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries” is interactive with readers and focuses on life issues – like aging, dating, second marriages, sex, death, family and fashion. Diane will use her expertise to find the right expert to help solve your predicament, unearthing kernels of truth and quickly getting to the heart of the issue.