Driving is a complicated task. Caregivers of persons with dementia often face the challenge of what do when that person is still driving. Good drivers are alert, think clearly, and make good decisions. When a person with Alzheimer’s disease is not able to do these things, he or she should stop driving. However, he or she may not want to stop driving or have the insight to realize that there is a problem.
A person with some memory loss may be able to drive safely sometimes. But he or she may not be able to react quickly when faced with a surprise on the road. Someone could get hurt or killed. If the person’s reaction time slows, you need to stop the person from driving.
As the caregiver, you will need to have the difficult conversation with the person about the need to stop driving. Do this in a caring way. Understand how unhappy the person may be to admit that he or she has reached this new stage. Try to empathize with the feeling of loss the person with dementia might be experiencing. They are losing control over their life and their cognitive functioning.
Here are some other things to know about driving and memory loss:
- The person may be able to drive short distances on local streets during the day but may not be able to drive safely at night or on a highway. If this is the case, then limit the times and places the person can drive.
- Some people with memory problems decide on their own not to drive, while others may deny they have a problem.
Signs that the person should stop driving include new dents and scratches on the car. You may also notice that the person takes a long time to do a simple errand and cannot explain why, which may indicate that he or she got lost.
Eventually, driving will become unsafe for a person with dementia. Here are some ways to stop people with Alzheimer’s disease from driving:
- Try talking about your concerns with the person.
- Take him or her to get a driving evaluation
- Ask your doctor to tell him or her to stop driving. The doctor can write, “Do not drive” on a prescription pad, and you can show this to the person.
- Hide the car keys, move the car, remove the distributor cap, or disconnect the battery.
Try to keep a positive spin on the conversation. Although the person can no longer drive, there are many ways to get around. Ask family or friends to drive the person to appointments and social outings. Find out about services that help people with disabilities get around. These services may include free or low-cost buses, taxi service, and carpools. Car services like Lyft, Juno and Uber are easily available in all areas of the city.
If the person with Alzheimer’s disease won’t stop driving, ask your physician to complete a New York State Department of Motor Vehicles medical review form. The person may be asked to retake a driving test. In some cases, the person’s license could be taken away.
This is a particularly sensitive issue and it is helpful to speak with someone about the challenges you are facing related to dementia and driving. You can call always call the CaringKind 24 Hour Helpline 646-744-2900 for more information and tips.