Welcome to Driving with Dementia

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I am a family/friend caring for a person with dementia who is still driving. I am interested in:

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Transitioning and planning ahead

For many people with dementia, there are ways to make the transition to no longer driving more of a natural progression than an abrupt stop. However, of course, they must stop driving immediately if their driving is already at the unsafe level. Otherwise, try these ideas to create opportunities to naturally limit how much the person with dementia drives, as well as tips for planning ahead.

Consider trying these ideas:

Make driving less appealing

Here are some ways to try to decrease the person with dementia's interest in driving. 

  • Highlight the cost of owning and operating a car and how much it’s possible to save by giving up driving. Try this transportation cost calculator (click here) produced by The Hartford.
  • Use changes in the person with dementia’s symptoms, other health conditions, or medications as a chance to appeal to their sense of responsibility that it’s time to stop driving because they are not the only ones at risk.
  • Emphasize poor traffic or weather conditions and how much less stressful and more comfortable it is to be a passenger than a driver.

Make driving less necessary

Driving is certainly a convenient way to get around, and yet it is not the only way. The person with dementia may be able to change certain routines like instead of visiting the bank, setting up automatic bill payments. The transportation options will depend on the person with dementia’s specific situation. Brainstorm together to come up with ideas like:

  • Family and friends
  • Members of a place of worship
  • Carpooling
  • Public transit - but if the person with dementia tends to get lost, they need someone to take them to the transit option and meet them at their destination.
  • Taxis and ridehailing (e.g., Uber, Lyft) - but if the person with dementia tends to get lost, they need someone to meet them at their destination.
  • Community organizations that offer driver services
  • Retirement residences with van service
  • Delivery services and online ordering (e.g., groceries, prescriptions, books, newspapers)
  • Services offering home visits (e.g., hairdressers, doctors, laundry)
  • Meal delivery services (e.g., Meals-on-Wheels)

Consider what action to take as a final recourse

Consider gifting the car to a family member and, when appropriate, with the agreement that the family member, in return, will provide a certain number of drives a month for the person with dementia. Only consider taking away the car keys or selling or disabling the car as a last resort. Otherwise, it can create conflict or hurt feelings because the person with dementia may find this abrupt, extreme, disrespectful, insensitive, or interpret it as a punishment.

Help make the transition to no longer driving easier on the person with dementia, as well as on everyone involved by:

  • Working together with the person with dementia to decide when is the right time for them to give up driving by using this resource (click here). It was produced by The University of Wollongong, Australia. Please note, it may take a minute to download.
  • Using this agreement (click here) produced by The Hartford. It is an agreement that outlines the person with dementia’s wishes regarding when they can no longer make the best decision about driving for their safety and the safety of others. Accordingly, it is useful as a way to discuss planning ahead for when the person with dementia can no longer drive. In addition, it also acts as a helpful reminder if the person with dementia doesn’t remember that they are not supposed to drive.
  • Discussing ways to get around without a car and working together to develop a transportation plan. Make sure the plan includes not only necessary appointments like the doctor and dentist, but also important and fun things like doing exercise and going to social events. Try using this alternative transportation planning worksheet (click here) or this worksheet (click here). Also, try this transportation cost calculator (click here), which highlights the cost of owning and operating a car. The money saved by giving up driving can be used to cover the costs of taxis and ridehailing (e.g., Uber, Lyft) services. The worksheets and calculator were produced by The Hartford.
 

In addition, learn about alternative transportation options based on where the person with dementia lives (click here).

Here's what some family members have to say:

  • Getting a taxi out here would be very expensive because we're in the country, so it's really a question of depending on a car and depending on other drivers. One day I asked a neighbour to take me somewhere, which I've never done before. They responded, 'Absolutely, whenever you need anything'. So, I know they're there.
  • I use the attitude that, 'I'll take you wherever you want to go'. I never make him feel bad about wanting to get a drive somewhere. I think having that attitude to support him has been helpful. It changes the dynamic between us when he has to depend on me. We've tried to plan so that we do things together instead.
  • Life doesn't stop. There are friends who will pick him up to do activities. He can walk. There is bus service and there's family. Nothing has to drastically change. He can stay the same, even if he doesn't have his own means of transportation.

See various family/friend carers providing helpful ideas about how to transition to no longer 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 various family/friend carers discussing the importance of planning early to transition to no longer driving.


Source: UCLA Dementia and Alzheimer's Care Program