Staying safe is the most important thing when it comes to driving. That includes the safety of an individual driver as well as everyone else’s safety. It takes a lot of focus to stay safe on the roads. There are road signs, lines, traffic signals, bikes, pedestrians, and other cars to worry about. And all of that doesn’t include flashing signs, advertisements, storefronts, and other distractions.
People with dementia or Alzheimer’s may face difficulties when it comes to navigating the road. These difficulties can put their safety and the safety of others at risk. That means, as a dementia or Alzheimer’s caregiver, it’s important for you to understand and follow through on the process of easing someone with dementia off the road and into safe and sustainable transportation arrangements.
Talking About the Situation
One of the first challenges that any caregiver faces is having the conversation about driving with the person you’re caring for. This can be a difficult situation to approach, as someone could easily see being forced to give up driving as a loss of independence or as a challenge to their faculties. However, there are some steps that you can take which will make the conversation easier. These steps include, but are not limited to:
- Start the conversation as soon as possible. This allows you to have the conversation when symptoms are at their most mild and gives the person more time to understand and adapt to the change.
- Be sure to involve your doctor in the conversation – an outside expert can make accepting the information easier.
- Involve the person with dementia or Alzheimer’s in the decision-making process to the fullest extent possible. This helps restore a sense of agency and independence which can make the transition easier.
- You should point out that this is a safety issue for both the person themselves as well as for others on the road. Be sure to emphasize that both of these things are equally important so as to ensure the person with dementia doesn’t feel de-valued.
- Appeal to the person’s sense of responsibility. This helps establish a feeling of agency that can help ease the transition.
- Make sure to be aware of and focus on the person’s feelings about the change. It is likely that their feelings will be complex and difficult to express or summarize, so be patient with any explanations.
Once the topic has been breached and a discussion has been had it’s important to start introducing changes. This transition can occur while the person with dementia or Alzheimer’s is still able to drive. Gradual introduction of changes, when possible, can help make the process go more smoothly. One key step is finding and arranging transportation options. These options include:
- Family and friends who can help with rides to appointments or provide rides for errands
- Identify and enroll in delivery services for things like groceries and medications
- Many municipalities offer some senior and disability transport services – check at the city and county level
- Community centers and houses of worship also frequently provide transportation services to those in need
- Explore ride-sharing or taxi services that will allow you to establish a payment account or that you can pre-pay.
- When possible have someone travel with the person with dementia or Alzheimer’s – this will provide company and can help the transition from being a driver to a passenger.
Knowing When to Stop Driving
It can be difficult to know when to stop driving. Driving represents a source of freedom and agency that can’t be replicated in other ways. As a result, it’s very common for people to resist calls to quit driving. However, it’s important to understand when it’s no longer safe for someone with mild dementia or Alzheimer’s to continue driving.
Knowing when to stop driving is a legitimate safety issue. Studies show that people with mild dementia have a higher incidence of accidents compared to people without dementia of the same age. That’s why the American Academy of Neurology strongly recommends that people with mild dementia cease driving.
It’s important to remember that every individual is different. Some people with Alzheimer’s or mild dementia may decide to stop driving on their own accord. Others will want to continue driving and may or may not be aware of a decline in their driving skills.
Visiting the doctor on a regular basis can be a good way to help someone understand the importance of no longer driving. Regular doctor visits can help someone with mild dementia or Alzheimer’s understand the ways and extent to which their skills and abilities have declined. This evidence can help convince them of the importance of staying off the road.
Additionally, regular doctor visits can help you check for the most important signs that it’s time to stop driving. Your doctor will ask questions that will help determine driving risk. Signs of unsafe driving may include:
- Confusing the gas for the brake and vice versa
- Failure to maintain a lane
- Slow and/or poor decision-making on the road
- Hitting the curb while driving
- Getting lost while driving in familiar places
- Failure to observe or obey traffic signs
- Driving too fast or too slowly
- Frequent accidents or traffic tickets
- Becoming confused or angry while driving
As every case of dementia and Alzheimer’s is different, it may be possible for someone with the condition to continue driving for a period of time. The best way to assess the safety of this proposition is by using an occupational therapist.
Occupational therapists are able to evaluate how much the disease impacts a person’s ability to perform tasks. Driving is a task that’s frequently evaluated in these situations. Moreover, occupational therapists can help with the conversation when it comes time to reduce or cease driving. This also helps ease the transition.
Another factor it consider is that driving laws are regulated at the state level. Each state has its own regulations and restrictions regarding driving. Your doctor or local DMV can help you understand what the regulations and restrictions are in your state. It may be the case that it is no longer legal for a person to drive.
Helpful Tips for Difficult Transitions
While many people will willing stop driving for their safety and the safety of others, there are people that have a harder time with the transition. This can be for any number of reasons. It can be a frustrating situation for caregivers and for the person with mild dementia or Alzheimer’s. However, for their safety and the safety of the public at large, it’s important that people who can’t drive safely don’t drive.
There are strategies that can be used as a last-resort if someone refuses to comply with a request or order to stop driving. These options include:
- Disable the vehicle – something as simple as removing a battery cable can prevent someone from getting on the road when they shouldn’t be driving
- Sell the vehicle – if you can function day-to-day without the vehicle, then you can consider selling it to prevent access to someone who shouldn’t be on the road
- Control key access – if you can’t disable the vehicle or sell it, then controlling key access is your best last-resort option. Keep keys out of sigh. You can provide a set of non-functioning keys if the person with mild dementia or Alzheimer’s insists on keeping a set of keys
It’s important to stress that these are last-resort options. They should only be used if someone is a danger to themselves and/or others and refuses to stop driving. These measures should only be used when you’ve tried and failed several times to convince someone to willingly stop driving.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are difficult situations for a number of reasons, and driving a car is only one of them. However, for many people, driving is an important part of who they are. The conversation around someone’s ability to drive needs to be approached with an eye towards sensitivity.
A person with mild dementia or Alzheimer’s already faces several challenges, and they may be defensive or aggressive when the subject of their ability to drive comes up. Failure to be sensitive toward their feelings and situations not only makes them feel worse, but also makes it more difficult to achieve the desired results of getting them off the road.
Use this information to have the difficult but necessary conversation about driving with the mild dementia or Alzheimer’s patient you care for. Remember to include your doctor or neurologist whenever possible. Seek the help of occupational therapists to assess where someone’s skills are and ensure that they’re able to safely operate a vehicle.
If you follow this advice and approach the situation with kindness and compassion then you’re more likely to achieve the results you’re looking for. That will help keep you, the person you care for, and the people in their community safe while they’re on the road. Don’t let the challenge or awkwardness of the conflict allow you to risk their lives or the lives of others.
Driving with dementia is a sensitive topic. If you’re looking for answers about dementia and driving, make sure to look at these questions. If you need any serious clarification, always consult with your doctor and local authorities.
General Questions on Driving with Dementia
If you have any general driving with dementia questions, make sure to check out these FAQs.
When to stop driving with dementia?
Eventually, someone with dementia will need to stop driving. This limit will depend on the individual patient, but someone should never drive if they don’t feel comfortable. It’s critical to consult with your doctor regularly – constant assessment is the best way to avoid driving unsafely.
How dementia patients still remember driving?
Not all dementia patients will still remember driving. That’s why it’s critical to perform constant assessments of an individual with dementia. They should never drive if they’re not in the right condition to drive.
What stage of dementia involves getting lost while driving?
This depends on the individual patient – it can vary depending on the person. You should make sure to get regular checkups to determine your suitability to drive.
What are signs of dementia when driving?
There can be a variety of indications that someone has dementia when they’re driving. They might be slow to respond, they might have trouble reasoning, or they might seem aggressive or disoriented when they drive. Related: What states have the worst drivers?
How to deal with dementia and driving?
The best way to deal with dementia and driving is to make sure that you’re constantly being check on by a doctor. It’s important to seek constant assessment to ensure that you’re driving. You don’t want to be in a situation where you feel uncomfortable driving.
How does dementia affect driving?
Dementia can have a profound effect on your ability to drive. Dementia patients may feel lost, confused, or aggressive when on the road. They may also feel disoriented or have problems responding quickly.
How to explain driving to someone with dementia?
If you want to stop someone from driving when they have dementia, it’s best to remove their ability to drive. Taking their keys, disabling the car, or moving the car are the best options. If you must, tell them you’re taking the car for repairs.
What is law regarding Alzheimer's patient driving?
This will depend on the state that you’re living in, so make sure to check with your local DMV. You should always make sure that your doctor approves of you driving, and you will likely need to report your diagnosis to your DMV. Related: Where can senior citizens get affordable car insurance?
How to get someone tested for driving that has Alzheimer's?
If you want to ensure that someone is still capable of driving if they’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you should check what your state’s regulations are. Next, make sure that you get a doctor to provide constant assessments.
Which of the following abilities are the most crucial for safe driving with dementia?
You should only drive if you have your full capabilities. You need to be confident, aware, and quick to react – you also need to be able to remember where you’re going. Additionally, go to your doctor to make sure you’re able to drive.
In what stage of Alzheimer's should someone stop driving?
There isn’t a clear answer to this question, as it will depend on the individual who is suffering from the disease. Doctor’s will be able to provide assessments that determine an Alzheimer’s patient’s ability to drive. In the early stages of the disease, it may be possible to continue driving.
What is moderate driving –dementia?
If you have moderate dementia, you most likely should not be driving. It’s critical to speak to your doctor about your ability to drive. You need to make sure you’re assessed for driving suitability before you get behind the wheel of a car with dementia.
Can I drive with dementia?
This depends on the state of your diagnosis and your doctor’s opinion. You must seek constant guidance from your doctor to ensure that you’re capable of driving with dementia. Make sure that you feel confident, even if your doctor has given you permission. Also, follow your state’s local regulations.
What percent of patients with dementia can pass driving test?
There’s no concrete data on this. The ability of a dementia patient to drive will vary significantly depending the severity of their symptoms. Make sure to get regular assessments from a doctor if you’re planning on driving.
Stopping People Driving with Dementia
If you’re struggling to stop people driving with dementia, the questions and answers below might be relevant to you.
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How can I keep a vehicle from starting to keep dementia patient from driving?
There are a host of ways you can stop a dementia patient from driving. First, you can sell the car. If this isn’t an option, removing the battery or keeping the keys secure are both alternatives that are suitable.
How do I stop someone from driving with dementia?
If someone is unwilling to stop driving with dementia, you need to remove their ability to drive by putting controls in place. Take the battery out of their car, lock up their keys, or sell the vehicle.
What to do when dementia parent won't stop driving?
If you can’t stop someone from driving, you’ll need to take matters into your own home. Taking away keys, removing car batteries, or selling vehicles is the best way to combat this issue.
How do you report someone has dementia and should not be driving?
If you want to make sure that someone stops driving with dementia, you can report them to your DMV in your state. Additionally, you need to speak to the person’s family so they can put controls in place.
In IL, how can you stop dementia patient from driving?
If you want to stop a dementia patient from driving in IL, it’s best to disable the car by removing the battery, or taking the car to another location. Taking the battery is another way to remove an individual’s ability to drive.
What if you can't stop your dad with dementia from driving?
You need to remove their ability to drive if they’re unable to make the decision for themselves. Start by taking their keys away. If this doesn’t work, take the battery out of the car, or simply take the car to your house (you can say you’re taking it for repairs).
What to do when your relative with Alzheimer's is still driving?
You need to start implementing controls to stop the individual driving. Start by taking their keys or removing the battery from their car. You may have to sell the car or move it to another location if neither of these is possible.
What to do if there is a man with dementia driving?
If there is a man driving with dementia, you might need to call 911 if they’re on the road and a threat to other people. Otherwise, you should consult with their family to make sure there is a way to prevent them from driving in the future.
What the state may charge you with if you found to be driving with dementia?
This is a matter that is dealt with individually on a state-by-state basis. You will need to check your local DMV to see what the laws and regulations are. No matter what, make sure that you do not drive if you’re not permitted or you’re not capable.
What recommendation should be made to older adult diagnosed with mild dementia driving?
They should never drive with dementia if they’re not comfortable. Additionally, they should be regularly checked by a doctor – they will eventually not be able to drive anymore as dementia progresses.