Driving with Dementia?

What is dementia?

Dementia refers to a group of different symptoms. Symptoms including memory loss, word-finding difficulties, impaired judgement, and problems with day-to-day activities. These symptoms are the result of an injury or loss of brain cells. Dementia combined with driving could get a little bit dicey.

Senior man holding up keys to his new car

What is normal?

Dementia is not a normal part of aging. Dementia is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, it is possible to have symptoms of dementia without having Alzheimer’s.

Most noteworthy is the question- Is it safe to drive with dementia?

The question is very subjective. According to Attorney Bernard J. Rabik, “People with dementia who continue to drive pose a potential danger on the road, worry their families and present challenges to health-care personnel. Most people would agree that anyone with moderate or severe dementia should not drive, but a careful evaluation is required to assess whether a patient such as your dad with his dementia remains fit to drive.”. In conclusion, just because someone can drive doesn’t mean that they should.

What can I do?

If there are concerns, discussions about driving habits should be ongoing between friends and family. Furthermore, passengers should be observant of a important red flags such as

  • Failure to comprehend traffic signs
  • Making poor of slow decisions
  • Driving at unsafe speeds
  • Hitting curbs or other objects
  • Confusing the gas and brake pedals
  • Continually taking longer to complete a known route
  • Forgetting the where they are coming from or where they have been

Certainly driving evaluations are available. Strategies can be taught to help the driver continue driving if the evaluator deems the driver safe. Sometimes, a poor driving evaluation result could be enough to convince your loved one that they have become too unsafe to drive. However, other times, more initiative needs to be taken to ensure the safety of our loved ones and others on the road. Discussion options with friends and families and involving the driver themselves is important to make a healthy, rational decision. Above all, having this conversation is important to keep everyone in the family safe!

In a perfect world, people will be able to recognize when they are unfit to drive, no matter the condition. Unfortunately people with dementia are easily confused and can be unaware that they are making bad decisions. While we want to respect our loved one feeling, it is important to remember that safety is a priority.

 

Walker Physical Therapy and Pain Center

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Orange, CA 92868

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