Driving is a key privilege, a skill that marks a milestone in the human development of an adult. Nothing makes a person feel less independent than losing the privilege to drive. Those who willingly give up their driving privileges are to be commended for realizing their increasing limitations and putting others well-being and safety above their own need to remain behind the wheel.
One advantage of dealing with a progressive illness like HD is that you have some time to anticipate and prepare for the declines in functioning that are coming. While such preparation may not make the losses any less sad when they occur, they generally help to avoid the sharp sting of shock that can occur with a sudden illness.
Practicing the use of public transportation options is recommended long before someone’s ability to drive becomes compromised by HD. Habits established early on can serve a person later down the road.
It is important to fully grieve your loss of the ability to drive. Only then can you brainstorm ways to stay mobile and as independent as possible. Even when you are no longer able to operate a motor vehicle, you must strive to be the driver of your own life. Make sure that you exercise decision-making power over where you go and what you do. Control what you can so not being able to drive anymore does not keep bothering you.
For some very adaptable individuals affected by HD, the shift from riding in the driver’s seat to the passenger’s seat in life is merely one of perspective. They are able to accept the services of another without feeling they are just along for the ride.
For most of us, achieving such acceptance is very challenging. But it may be what the person affected by HD and his or her family would do best to aim for as they ride out the long course of HD together.
When family conversations about concerns about driving are not enough, resources are available locally to help assess driving safety, such as driving simulators at Duke University; these can give objective information about one’s abilities. Also, asking a neurologist for their medical opinion on a family member’s ability to drive is recommended.
Adapted from “Take Care”, 2004, The National Caregivers Association and “The Marker”, 2005, HDSA