At the earliest stages of dementia, the person with dementia may notice changes in their driving. As a result, they may make adjustments as to when they drive. For example, they may only drive in the daylight and/or only to places that they are familiar with. However, as the dementia progresses, they will lose their ability to determine on their own when they are no longer able to drive safely and that they should stop driving. To decrease the risk of accidents, it’s important that you get involved.
You can’t rely on the person with dementia to recognize when their driving is unsafe. So you must regularly observe their driving and monitor any changes in their driving skills. To help you notice the warning signs indicating that their driving is unsafe:
The best approach is to base driving decisions as much as possible on objective information. As soon as there is a dementia diagnosis, observe the person with dementia’s driving on a regular basis, and watch for signs of changes in how they drive. This will help you avoid delaying action or taking action too soon.
In addition, knowing the warning signs that the person with dementia’s driving skills are changing helps make sure you don’t miss any indications that their driving ability is declining. Keep in mind that:
As you regularly monitor the person with dementia’s driving, be sure to also:
Here's what some family members have to say:
An in-car driving assessment is necessary as soon as you feel that the person with dementia's driving may be unsafe. The purpose of an in-car driving assessment is to determine if the person with dementia may continue driving and if so, to what extent.
An in-car assessment goes far beyond the type of driving test that the person with dementia took to become a licensed driver in the first place. Instead of testing general driving ability, it assesses whether the person with dementia’s driving skills are affected by dementia. All driving assessments are not the same. They vary depending on where the assessment is offered, what it focuses on, and the type of assessor.
What is included in the driving assessment varies by region, but it usually does not specifically assess whether the person with dementia’s driving skills are affected by dementia.
When making arrangements for the person with dementia to have an in-car driving assessment, ask the assessment centre these questions:
The person with dementia's doctor is a valuable resource who can help by:
It’s likely that the person with dementia’s doctor has had experience with patients whose driving abilities have been affected by various conditions—including dementia. Think about meeting with the doctor privately without the person with dementia to discuss any driving issues that you have noticed. The doctor may then recommend that the person with dementia come in for an in-office assessment as described below.
When a patient has a medical condition like dementia that increases the risk of car accidents, the doctor has certain legal obligations. For most provinces and territories in Canada, the doctor must assess the person with dementia’s cognitive abilities and make a recommendation regarding whether or not they should continue driving.
At a doctor’s appointment during an in-office assessment, the doctor will review any medications the person with dementia is taking, evaluate cognitive functions like memory and thinking processes, and may do a physical exam. Then the doctor will discuss the results of the assessment and recommendations with the person with dementia.
See how there are a number ways you can identify warning signs to unsafe driving in the first three videos. In addition, the third video discusses what to do when the person with dementia is reluctant to see a doctor regarding driving.
See how various family/friend carers notice changes in the person with dementia's driving. Although some of the content is specific to Australia, most of the ideas are helpful no matter where you live.
Source: Alzheimer's Australia Vic.
See how this daughter encourages her mother to think about having her driving assessed. Please note that the video mentions a resource called the Eldercare
Locator at eldercare.gov that is based on the United States so it is not
applicable in Canada.
Source: Alzheimer's Association
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