I saw my neighbor scrape another car while she was driving and didn’t stop. It’s not the first time. And from conversations I can see she’s experiencing memory problems. My husband says I should stay out of it. What do you think?
— Fender Bent
Dearie: Oh my goodness. Do you remember when Daddy wanted to continue to drive?
Barbara: Yes, I do. Everyone was being so stubborn. He insisted. You didn’t know what to do, so did nothing even though you didn’t feel safe. I kept yelling and screaming that you needed to take the keys away. It wasn’t pretty!
Dearie: It hurt so much, to have to tell him he couldn’t drive anymore. I was afraid of what his reaction would be and I was also afraid to go driving with him. We love so much to be independent, but I also knew it was time.
Barbara: I’ve seen this problem over and over and over again. It’s a terrible dilemma. And it’s not just because of memory problems, like this person wrote about. Normal age-related changes can make driving a problem. Depth perception changes. Reaction times increase. It’s hard to make quick decisions and act fast. Then add memory into the mix—you worry about getting lost and using judgment skills.
Dearie: Driving is so important. How else do you get around? It’s another way of taking away our independence. One more way that everybody tells us, “You’re old, you can’t do that anymore.”
Barbara: I know, I know. But what about the huge safety issue? Scrapes can get fixed. What happens, though, if the writer’s neighbor hurts someone—and doesn’t notice?
Dearie: I only drive to the store or the library—places I know really well.
Barbara: Mama, I could go on and on about why I think it wasn’t safe for Daddy or you to be driving, but this question was a little different. She’s asking if it’s alright to get involved with her neighbor.
Dearie: I think it’s a neighborly thing, to be honest, don’t you?
Barbara: Not really. It depends on how well you know the family. Also, this is really sensitive and hurtful stuff, just like we were saying about our own family. I’d be worried for you if you got too involved with a neighbor’s issues.
Dearie: I think you’re probably right. Do you think it’s different if it were a close friend.
Barbara: Yes I do. Then you have a relationship with that person and then only if they ask for advice.
Dearie: No, I think it’s sometimes the responsibility of a friend to say what’s really on your mind. And with those bumps and scrapes, do we tell the writer to call the police when she witnesses a fender bender?