Driving and Dementia
Driving and Dementia for individuals in the early stages of dementia, can be successful in operating a vehicle. However, as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia progress, individuals are at increased risk for accidents. It is important for families to begin discussing safety while driving with dementia early. Furthermore, the ability to safely operate a vehicle and adhere to traffic laws takes hundreds of micro-steps and decisions which may be adversely impacted by dementia.
Warning signs that your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia may need to stop driving:
- Increased disorientation, including getting lost, even in an area they have been driving for years
- Increase in misjudging speed or distance
- Getting into accidents (look for: dents or scratches on the car) or feeling at greater risk of having one
- Passengers are concerned about the individual’s driving
Tips to start the conversation about driving with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia:
- Be sensitive: Acknowledge how challenging it may be for your loved one and be sensitive that this loss of independence is difficult.
- Plan it out: Set aside time to share your concerns and to listen to your loved one’s concerns.
- Discuss the risks of driving: Driving is already a risky activity. Discuss how the changes your loved one is experiencing may affect their ability to drive safely, through no fault of their own.
- Do your research: Familiarize yourself with state regulations on safe driving and license removal.
- Focus on prevention: Don’t wait until it’s too late before you make a plan.
- Get the care team involved: Request “back-up” by asking your loved one’s physician for a “prescription” or note indicating that the individual should no longer drive. This way, the person may be less likely to direct feelings of anger toward you.
Above all, many cities offer a driving assessment program that is either administered by, or run in cooperation with, police departments and motor vehicles departments. Inquire about such programs by calling your local Area Agency on Aging, police department, and motor vehicles bureau. In Boca Raton you can contact –
Memory and Wellness Center Florida Atlantic University 777 Glades Road, Bldg. AZ-79. Boca Raton, FL 3343