Dangerous tic - what to do?

I have a problem and could really use some advice from the wise souls on the SDMB.

My aunt, for as long as I can remember, has had bad facial tics. It’s mostly a head jerk accompanied by facial spasm. I suspect that it may be Tourette’s syndrome, but for the cause of my story I suppose it isn’t that important what the cause is. Otherwise everything is just fine, she’s a brilliant woman, and a successful physician (she even runs her own clinic).

She flew up to visit us for the holidays, and I spent today at my grandmother’s house with her, catching up on news. She offered to drive me home, and I accepted, grateful for the lift because it’s snowy and cold. During the trip home, she ran right through two stop signs and a red light. Not a yellow-about-to-turn-red light, but one that was already red as we approached, and it’s not as if we were having so engrossing a conversation that she would have been distracted. Thank God the intersections were all empty. I didn’t say anything at the time, because I was almost home, but I was VERY scared for the last few minutes of the trip.

I’m worried that the facial tic might be responsible for tonight’s missed stops, because the spasm usually involves her eyes closing for a second, like when you’re sneezing. I don’t know how to approach the subject, because although she’s a doctor, I don’t think she’s ever looked into her possible condition. And if she is, she doesn’t seem to be looking for means to control it. Her tic is definitely not a subject we talk about in my family. My family tends to go the “nothing is wrong with anyone, don’t talk about anyone in the family having PROBLEMS” route.

Note: I don’t think Tourette’s syndrome is a “problem”, it’s just a disorder, like so many others, that gets blown out of proportion, or ignored because of shame. My family is the type that’s proud to admit to having kidney stones or arthritis, but would never ever allow one of its members to be diagnosed with something like Tourette’s, OCD, or depression. Which is too bad because all three run in my whacked-out family!
That aside, I am honestly very worried for my aunt. I’d hate to think of her driving on a highway and having a spasm at the wrong moment… what can I do without bringing down the wrath of my entire family for exposing a “problem”?

Your aunt runs red lights and you’re worried about the wrath of the family for talking?

Talk to your aunt. Tell her about the stop lights and tell her your worried about her. After that, it’s her responsibility.

And no need to tell anyone in the family that you talked to your aunt.

I hate to add to this, but it may be Huntington’s disease.

My godmother has this, and while she showed only mild symptoms (facial tics) for most of her life, in the past four years she has become completely bed ridden and incapaciated.


My best wishes to you, your aunt, and your family.