Alzheimer’s and Dementia: When to Stop Driving

alzheimeraes-and-dementia

Even though in most cases Alzheimer’s and dementia don’t drastically interfere with someone’s day to day life, they may have a certain influence on a particular set of skills.

Namely, we are referring here to driving and how the aforementioned diseases can impair it. As we all know, the act of driving requires not only attention but also the ability to follow rules, to concentrate, and to make quick – and correct – decisions.

People suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia can follow some safety tips to help themselves better manage driving – however, there’s a time when they should stop driving!

Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Bringing up the subject

People suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia are not likely to realize that they should stop driving as they may hurt themselves or other people. This is why you, a friend or relative, should be the one to bring up this particular subject.

It is essential that you also rely on a doctor’s advice for the conversation, but make sure to not decide for the other person. Make them understand the situation and, if possible, have them plan their future without driving.

When should they Stop?

Now, let’s take a look at some of the signs that should tell you that your friend/relative suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia must stop driving as soon as possible.

  • They may have a hard time finding the correct route to familiar places, or they may even get lost and call/ask you for help.
  • They may have a difficult time staying in the lane, thus endangering both their and other drivers’ lives.
  • Some people suffering from Alzheimer’s/dementia may end up mixing the gas and brake pedals.
  • Depending on the disease progression, they may not be able to notice all traffic signs in time.
  • When faced with circumstances that decide quick reactions, they may decide in a poor/slow manner – for example, when the light turns green, and they take more time than usual to start driving.
  • They may also occasionally hit the curb and not realize it.
  • In some cases, such people may speed or drive too slow without realizing it.
  • Depending on disease progression, some common things that happen in traffic may make them confused or angry while driving – such as using turn signals and so on.
  • Last but not least, they may get into accidents for no apparent reason – or they may get tickets without them understanding why, of course.

Obviously, even if the person doesn’t show any of the above, you may still want a doctor to evaluate their condition and determine whether they should keep on driving or not.

Keep in mind that you should also take into account how often your friend/relative drives in a week. Mild Alzheimer’s/dementia may not be obvious in scarce driving sessions, but this doesn’t mean that the disease has no effect on driving abilities.

The Bottom Line

In the end, it is recommended that you assess the abilities of the person suffering from such diseases on a regular basis, as their condition may worsen. If the latter happens, then a car accident is just a wrong turn away, so to say.

Naturally, if the person refuses to stop driving, you should take more drastic measures – such as disabling or locking the vehicle.

Overall, mild conditions should be checked regularly and the affected person should be told that they’d be a danger to other drivers and pedestrians if they kept on driving!

References and Sources

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/caregivers/in-depth/alzheimers/art-20044924

https://n.neurology.org/content/neurology/70/14/e45.full.pdf

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/driving-safety-and-alzheimers-disease

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