Driving w/Alzheimer’s or Dementia


We know how difficult it is for family caregivers to take the necessary actions to “remove” the car keys from an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient when it becomes dangerous for that person to drive…. especially if that person does not believe that anything is wrong.
It’s one of the major steps in removing a person’s independence, and patients fight this decision or even the mention of the possibility of removing the keys. Yet we know that dementia patients are a danger on the road.
**A Canadian study has indicated that 24% – 59% of people with some form of dementia could not pass a road test. And the American Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry recommends that people stop driving when they receive a diagnosis.
Below is a listing created by the NHTSA that was published on Alzheimer’s & Dementia Weekly’s FB page.
“15 Warning Signs for Driving with Dementia
1. Driving too slowly or too fast
2. Receiving traffic tickets
3. Being honked at or yelled at by other drivers
4. Becoming upset or angry while driving
5. Dents, dings or scraped paint on the car, mailbox or garage
6. Misunderstanding or not noticing signs on the road
7. Getting lost in familiar places
8. Stopping at a green light
9. Changing lanes without looking
10. Drifting into another lane
11. Having difficulty making left turns
12. Misjudging distances
13. Mistaking the gas pedal for the brake
14. Causing any crash or near crash
15. You can also follow the “grandchild test”: If you would not feel safe having this person drive his or her grandchild, it’s time to have a talk about handing over the keys.”
The Family Caregiver Alliance indicates (below) that there are several behaviors that should be warning signs to caregivers that now is the time to take the steps to remove the car keys. When the patient:
  • Has become less coordinated.
  • Has difficulty judging distance and space.
  • Gets lost or feels disoriented in familiar places.
  • Has difficulty engaging in multiple tasks.
  • Has increased memory loss, especially for recent events.
  • Is less alert to things happening around him or her.
  • Has mood swings, confusion, irritability.
  • Needs prompting for personal care.
  • Has difficulty processing information.
  • Has difficulty with decision-making and problem solving.

Let me also give you a few suggestions of what can be done if actually taking the car keys away seems impossible. You might not be able to do it at the moment, but perhaps in 2-3 months you can be successful in your efforts.

  1. Make a practice of using “therapeutic fiblets” – little white lies – to maintain the patient’s safety.
  2. Replace the actual car key on your loved one’s key chain with a similar looking one that won’t work in the car.
  3. Indicate that the keys have been lost and you need to get a new one from the dealership.
  4. Disconnect the battery or spark plugs.
  5. Have your mechanic disconnect some other item under the hood that might be less visible than #3.
  6. Remove the car from the premises (best option) with the fiblet that it needs to be inspected or repaired.
  7. Convince Grandpapa that his favorite grandson or granddaughter needs a car for college or a new job.
  8. If you live in snow country have the snow plowers block the car in with piles of snow around it.

What you have to remember is that with most patients, you can use the same “reason or fiblet” several times a day or over a longer period of time, as they won’t remember what you told them previously. We know our Alzheimer’s and dementia patients have increased issues with perception and reaction times.  Don’t take the chance that your loved one, another family member or a stranger on the road might be seriously injured or killed because a person with some form of dementia is still driving.

Source: http://www.alzheimersweekly.com/2013/06/the-dangers-of-driving-with-alzheimers
              ** http://www.ctvnews.ca/elderly-dementia-patients-have-high-car-accident-risk
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