Dear Amy: My family lives next to a very sweet elderly woman, who lives by herself, and also still drives. She appears in good health, but has trouble seeing and hearing. She’s 94 years old.
A few months ago, she drove onto our front lawn. The car stopped a few feet from hitting our house. She was shaken up, but unhurt. There was significant damage to our lawn, several bushes and a fence post.
After the incident, I saw her son visiting her house, so I went to ask how she was doing. I recommended that she not drive anymore, and he grew very defensive, and said that was her decision, not ours. He said that she needs to be able to drive herself to run errands and to go to doctor’s appointments, and that he lives too far to be able to drive her around daily.
She is back to driving herself again. She backed into her own mailbox about a month ago.
I am terrified to let my kids play in our front yard for fear she’ll have another accident. I just can’t seem to bring myself to call the police on her.
What do you recommend? How can I get her son to take action?
Dear Worried: When your neighbor damaged your lawn and almost drove into your house, your own insurance company might have gotten the ball rolling.
The son will not act. You should report your neighbor’s unsafe driving to the DMV.
When I checked at my state’s DMV website, I found a very easy-to-file “concerned citizen’s” form for a “request for driver review.” This form asks for the individual’s name, address, make and model car and license plate number. It also asks for your information, and gives you an opportunity to explain your concerns. Presumably, this information is not revealed to the driver. The form also has opportunities to list others who will verify your concerns.
If the DMV is doing its job, they will follow through with the driver to ask for a reassessment. Let’s hope she doesn’t drive herself there.
Understand that you are not only saving your children (and others) who might be injured, but you are also doing this out of concern for her safety.
I hope your town offers alternative transportation for seniors. The most obvious reason for seniors driving long past the time when they should – is because they don’t see any alternative. Perhaps your family can be more helpful by offering to drive her occasionally and helping to set her up for grocery delivery.
Dear Amy: You receive many letters from parents who are unhappy in their relationships with their adult children, and they frequently wonder what they are doing wrong.
I was among them until I had a recent “light bulb moment.” Being with one of our four adult children was often uncomfortable; we were usually walking on eggshells, afraid we’d upset him without really knowing why and worried he’d get angry and create a scene. I would then stew for weeks about what I had done wrong.
And then the light bulb went on: He really doesn’t like being with us. So why was I forcing this issue with him? And – here’s another watt in that light bulb: this particular son has long-standing issues that HE needs to resolve.
After meeting with a family counselor, I realized that our relationship was more important to me than to him, and I needed to let go of unrealistic expectations of how our family should function.
I had to take a hard look at myself and my contributions, both good and bad. With the counselor’s advice, I let this son know we would no longer hold him to any family expectations. I stopped calling, emailing or texting (which he saw as intruding). I told him we’d love to see him and would let him initiate that. And, when we did get together, we would accept only respectful behavior from him.
It was a huge relief, for everyone. He reaches out every now and then, we meet occasionally and fortunately he’s very generous about making sure we see our grandkids. Our relationship with the other adult kids is better without the stress their brother usually brought to the mix.
Sometimes letting go is the only sane answer.
Dear Happier: Ninety percent of my advice to questions regarding family challenges is to urge people to detach. Your experience provides the perfect example of how detachment works. Good for you.
Email Amy at email@example.com.