When push comes to shove – Driving and Dementia – Part one

Storytime! But the TLDR – I am learning to drive a car as the motorbike didn’t go down so well with dementia. I now need to drive a car in order to visit my Dad, and learning to drive is the one thing I thought I would be able to do together. Also, be careful when you have people living with dementia in your car!

Let me give you a little bit of a back story …

My father was a driver for a living, and I remember when he first moved into the bedsit when he separated from my mother. It was in the roughest part of town but also 60-second walk to the shops and just 2 stops on the train to Liverpool city centre. We would walk/public transport everywhere and rent cars to go on road trips at least once a year if not more. The glamour of it all! haha

I did everything I could to convince him he needed a car. He didn’t want the extra expense, he didn’t want it getting broken into or stolen which would not be hard for his road. I was a daddy’s girl through and through and prided myself on begin able to get my dad to do whatever I want or needed (as all daddies girls should be able to do, it comes with the territory so don’t judge) and after a lot of moaning, discussing and debating he gave in and got a car! He could pick me up from my mothers, we could drive to Scotland and Bristol whenever we wanted, and finally, drive to church on a Sunday instead of having the half an hour train journey and the horrendous 10 min cold walk back to his cold bedsit at 10pm on a Sunday. OK Horrendous is a strong word, but as a child, the walk both encompassed the hope of rest and anguish of walking after a long day, which I still hate to this day.

He certainly did travel and get about in his car. He would give the ladies lifts to church, go to Bristol at least once a month and our long road trips to Scotland as well. I remember as a child asking road signs and markings and their meanings on our long drives, getting ready to learn how to drive, thinking its good to get all this knowledge now (very adult/headstrong child).

Mother on ‘Percy’ one of her motobikes

If I am honest I have always wanted a motorbike. Everyone in the family had one at some stage, including my sister who didn’t even want one but was easier for a while (which was so infuriating as it’s me that wants the bike, says the 13 year old). My mother delights in telling the story of Dad and the need for platform motorbike boots so his feet can reach the floor when he stops. But it’s safe to say if every other bloody family member gets one, so do I, an I won’t take no for an answer. They don’t have a leg to stand on to argue back after all.

I didn’t need to drive or have the money to learn at 17, and soon enough London came a calling and I didn’t need to drive when public transport was so good and cost of living was high. Just like everyone says, ‘Don’t move to London, it’s too expensive’ same goes for driving ‘Don’t learn how to drive in London, its horrible!’

So where it begins…

Well it has to start with a motorbike right! I am leaving uni, still living and working in London and I called around all the motorbike places for prices for intensive courses to do my Direct access intense course to get straight onto the big bikes. And then I turn 25 and I can finally do it! But taking everyone’s advice I go up north and do my tests there. Long story short my CBT was a shit show, which had nothing to do with my performance and all happened at the same time as my old man getting in diagnosis.

‘Suki’ the bike, because every vehicle needs a name

We then had a ‘family bike’ of a little Suzuki Marauder 125 and off I go. I thought even at the earlier stages my dad might be up for coming motorbike shopping with me, or talk about his bikes he had etc. but it never works out as you wish. By this point, I passed my CBT the day he went missing and went into hospital, and on leaving hospital he had to be in a care home and went straight into an EMI nursing which was truly awful for someone who had so much independence to now be stuck in a home with no one that can hold a conversation and autonomy taken away.

So here I come bummbling along on the 125, but as soon as I arrive in all the gear, he is so worried about the bike, he just wants to watch it to make sure no one steals it. And if I take my gear off and leave it in his room, he is so paranoid someone will take it, you can’t spend any quality time with him. But to put myself in his shoes, imagine someone taking you for a nice meal, or watching a good film, and you think the car is unlocked with the keys in the ignition. That will be all you can think about is the car being stolen and the repercussions. So riding soon fell by the wayside because he was my priority.

My CBT has for sure ran out, and I would love nothing more than to zip about London on one as every bike that passes feels like a taunt, but alas here I am learning to drive a car.

Why a car, and why now?

Folkestone is an hour via train, and that’s all good and well but getting about when I am down there is a royal pain in my arse. When my father was healthier we could walk and get the bus around but it soon became harder and harder and the expense racked up too.

He has of course got worse since he has been in Kent nearly 3 years now, and he had to move care home as they could no longer meet his basic needs. Along with that is the fact this care home is a further 45 mins drive from Folkestone, which would take over an hour if I took the bus. Furthermore, there is nothing around the home, at all. Which means we would have to walk at least 20 mins to get to any shop never mind something else that’s engaging. So I needed to take the plunge. The money that would be spent on going to see him now needs to be funnelled into driving so that when I see him, it’s all within my control (as dementia firmly is not.)

So, hows driving?

I think this is already a long blog post, so I’ll stop it here. But the story is ongoing, I am still learning and is been the longest time that I haven’t seen my Dad and I miss him so much, and know I will witness a rapid decline for evidently for not seeing him in such a long time. But bring on the driving! 🙂


1 Comment

  1. Joy
    8th July 2019 / 5:11 pm

    Oh Emily hope it goes well & dad not to bad next time you see him big squishy hugs xx

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