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Dementia Related Driving Problems

Did you know?

Many insurance companies require that they be informed if the driver suffers from any condition that might affect his or her driving ability. Sometimes claims can be held up if this information is not provided, so caregivers should inform the insurance company as soon as possible about their loved one's diagnosis of dementia and ask how this might affect coverage.

Driving often becomes more risky and dangerous for someone with dementia as the disease progresses. However, driving (and stopping driving) is also one of the activities that causes most controversy and frustration between people with dementia and and their families.

Safety Issues in Driving

Losing the ability to drive represents a loss in independence and control, because people with dementia are no longer able to move around independently and control the course of their day. However, while respecting dignity and independence is important, it is not as important as the safety of both the person with dementia and others around them.

Driving is an activity that is often taken for granted in terms of its complexity. Think about it — a driver must be able to do lots of things at once:

  • recognize traffic signs
  • recognize traffic signals
  • pay attention to other cars
  • react to other cars
  • adapt to changing road or weather conditions
  • handle many other details

Caregivers should consider these warning signs that their loved one may not be able to drive safely and responsibly:

  • He becomes easily frustrated, angry, or confused while driving
  • The caregiver has concerns about his reaction times, hearing, and/or vision limits
  • He does not notice and/or obey traffic signs and warnings
  • There is a decrease in his use of appropriate driving etiquette

Suggestions for Caregivers

  • Planning ahead: If dementia is diagnosed early while your loved one is still able to make informed decisions, you should talk with him or her about when and in what case he or she would want to be stopped from driving.
  • Making a decision: If you feel that your loved one is no longer to safely drive, first try honestly discussing your concerns with him or her, bringing in support from other family members if necessary. Some caregivers have found that recommendations from the family doctor, attorney, or an independent driving assessment can provide authority if a loved one resists intervention.
  • Transportation options: When your loved one is no longer able to drive for him or herself, try to think of ways in which s/he can still remain mobile. In the earlier stages of dementia, buses and taxis may be appropriate, but someone should be available to send off and receive the individual. Community transportation services can also provide a means of accessing senior centers and other resources. Additionally, try to limit the reasons why your loved one would need to travel outside of the home for chores and appointments. For instance, have groceries, medications, or other goods delivered to the home or arrange for friends, family, or neighbors to drive him/her to doctor appointments.

Resources

Family Conversations about Alzheimer's, Dementia, and Driving

Source: The Hartford
Description: This web guide contains FAQs, warning signs, and other resources on the topic of dementia and driving. A printable "Agreement About Driving" can help you and your loved one plan ahead for when your loved one should no longer be driving.

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Fact Sheet: Driving

Source: Alzheimer's Association
Description: This fact sheet provides information and statistics on driving and provides suggestions for when driving becomes a problem.

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Dementia – When Driving is Dangerous

Source: Better Health Channel (Australia – Victoria)
Description: This web page discusses warning signs of dangerous driving and provides advice for what to do when the person should no longer be driving.

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Alzheimer's: When to Stop Driving

Source: Mayo Clinic
Description: This article discusses when your loved one should stop driving, and offers tips on how to make the transition from driver to passenger. It also explains that in addition to forgetfulness, changes in visual reasoning can make driving dangerous.

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Alzheimer's Disease

Source: U.S. News
Description: This web page provides an overview of Alzheimer's disease and has sections for preventions, symptoms, tests, treatment, and managing the disease.

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