When a Disoriented Senior Wants to Drive

A Professional Opinion

"Hopefully, what can be happening here is a conversation," Reed said. "And I think that is what I would try to encourage as much as anything else is that if someone senses that something is wrong … try to understand the situation and use their judgment about what the right steps would be."

"If it appears dangerous, why not grab the car keys away from the person?" Quinones asked.

"Because you don't know the person and if it's a stranger you don't know how they're going to react."

An Apple for the Teacher

During our two-day experiment, most people reacted with kindness but drew the line at questioning the senior's right to drive. But not teacher Aaron Shorr.

"You shouldn't be driving if you don't remember what kind of car you have," he gently cautioned the 92-year-old actor as he walked him around, looking for the lost vehicle. Once they found it, Shorr dialed 911 from his cell phone.

"There's an elderly gentleman here who needs some help."

As he waits for help to arrive, he made another call to a man he thought was Padden's son. "I've called the police. Driving is not a hot idea for him."

Shorr has had to make that difficult call before.

"I took my mother off the road, too," he said. "It reached a certain point in time where if you're just not capable behind the wheel of a car you shouldn't be behind the wheel of a car."

Common Concern

Reed of the Alzheimer's Association agreed. "Calling a family member, calling the police and getting other people involved to help manage the situation really is the right approach," he said.

When we eventually revealed what we were doing to the unknowing strangers who came to the aid of the elderly actor, it opened a floodgate of memories.

"I remember my father, we used to follow him home and stuff like that but he would insist on driving," one woman confided to Quinones.

"My father still keeps his license in his wallet and believes he still has a car," another said.

"A lesson here for your students?" Quinones asked teacher Shorr.

"Well, just for everybody, you know," he said. "Just look out for each other. We don't do enough of that anymore."

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