For most people, driving is a necessity as well as a symbol of independence. There are very few people that will easily give up their independence and give you the keys to their vehicle. Yet for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, driving a vehicle can pose serious risks and endanger themselves or others. The decision of when to stop driving is one that Alzheimer’s patients and their families often face.
There are many opinions concerning the issue of driving for the Alzheimer’s patient. If he trusts his physician, the doctor may have more success than the primary care giver in letting the patient know when to stop driving. The physician may be trusted by the patient and be able to explain to him that his medical condition may interfere with his driving. This scenario is good for the caregiver as it takes the responsibility off you and puts it on the medical condition, with the physician being the messenger.
Below you will find some guidelines for approaching this sensitive issue with your family and your loved one. Ask your relatives to back you by being pleasantly supportive of your loved one. For a while, make sure he has a ride to familiar frequented places. Routine is so important.
Humor is almost always a positive way to cope with this situation. A fun way of approaching the subject is to tell him how lucky he is to have his own chauffeur!
However, knowing when to take the keys out of his hands can become tricky. Here are some warning signs that will help you make the decision:
- Car accidents
- Stopping in traffic for no apparent reason.
- Getting confused between the brake and the gas pedals
- Getting a ticket for moving violations
- Getting lost when places are familiar
- Getting agitated or irritated when they are driving
- Not anticipating dangerous situations
- Delayed responses to unexpected situations
- Driving at inappropriate speeds
- Incorrect signaling
- Getting confused at exists
- Switching into a wrong lane
If some of the warning signs above are present, then it’s time for family members to gather and discuss the problem. Sometimes it is easier to be together to face a difficult decision and intervene at an early stage when signs of impairment are not yet critical
The accident rate for drivers 85 years old and over is nine times higher than drivers between ages 25 and 69. The primary care giver may perform routine exams to assess the ability and skills of the patient and conform to state and local restrictions and laws. If you are concerned about your loved one’s driving, take measures to keep him and others safe on the road.
You may find some additional information by finding a specialist in your area and you can contact the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (1-800-290-2344), http://www.driver-ed.org. Your local Department of Motor Vehicles may also be able to help you on this subject.