Silver Alert

selective focus photography of two person s hands holding gray key with red heart keychain
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Andrea studied for years to become a registered nurse. Then after several years, of experience she received a promotion at the hospital. Still a young lady she planned to celebrate her promotion by spending the weekend with her grandmother.

She got off work at midnight and pulled her car onto the interstate highway for the short drive. Though it was late her grandmother sat up awaiting her arrival. She was following a safe distance behind a tractor trailer truck on the dry pavement. The truck was traveling slightly slower than the speed limit, but Andrea was never one to speed.

Suddenly, the truck swerved to the left lane, and Andrea was facing two oncoming headlights. Before she could react, she crashed into the oncoming car.

Andrea’s grandmother, my aunt, waited until the early hours of the morning for her granddaughter. Before dawn, my cousin received the call all parents fear.

The next morning, I received a call from my cousin who informed me his oldest daughter, Andrea, was dead. My first question, trying to wrap my head around the news, was HOW? I learned the driver of the other car had Alzheimer’s disease. He was lost, going the wrong way on the interstate, and he survived the accident.

Herodotus said, “Death is a delightful hiding place for weary men.”

It might be a good place for weary old men, but it’s not a good place for active young people. I can’t help but think, the driver of the other car with such a dreary and short future should have died, not Andrea. If I were God I would have made that choice.

I’m not angry with God, and I’m not angry with the man with dementia. I’m not even angry with this family who knew his diagnosis but didn’t have the courage to take his keys. They had restricted his driving, and he was only permitted to drive a few blocks to McDonald each morning to have coffee with his friends. He wasn’t allowed to carry the car keys which were kept in a bowl when not in use. He got up during the night, somehow found the keys, and left without anyone’s knowledge.

I’m not angry because I understand how slowly the disease progresses. It is difficult to know when and how to take away driving privileges. His family members were novices at dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. I feel sad for them. Not the kind of sadness I feel for our family, but still sad. I’m sure they anguish over their failure.

Not only do they have to deal with an injured father with Alzheimer disease, but they must deal with the legal and financial repercussions of a fatal accident. Auto insurance doesn’t limit the liability of this family who is to some degree financially liable. They may suffer for years with legal costs.

The first symptom of my mother’s disease was when she got lost driving home. She didn’t drive much, so my Dad volunteered to chauffer her. I remember when my father called to tell me he had bad news. He joked, “your mother passed the state driver’s test today.” I was a novice then and didn’t realize how important it was she not be allowed to drive. Thankfully, he didn’t let behind the wheel again even though the state said she was capable. When my father died I found her driver’s license in her purse. It had expired a few years prior.

It is estimated that one of every seven people over seventy have some form of dementia. I often see Silver Alert warnings on the highway signs warning drivers to be on the lookout for a missing person. Usually, this means someone with dementia is driving, and their family can’t find them. Usually, we think the purpose of a Silver Alert is to locate the missing person, so they can be returned home. But more importantly, they need located before they kill someone. If you are considering taking the keys away from your loved-one, I encourage you to err on the side of caution. Make a wise decision.

Proverbs 3:35 NASB- The wise will inherit honor, but fools display dishonor.

© Ronald Milburn 2018