Difficult Conversations: Driving and Dementia

Hands on Wheel

It is the very conversation that so many of us dread having – when is it time to tell a loved one that driving is no longer a safe option?  Or perhaps we are navigating those waters on our own – you have been given a diagnosis of dementia and feel that you’re still okay to drive, but want to be cautious and safe. How do we know when the time has come to have “the talk” with a loved one, or with ourselves?

The following list provides warning signs that it may be time to stop driving:

Forgetting how to locate familiar places

  • Failing to observe traffic signs
  • Making slow or poor decisions in traffic
  • Driving at an inappropriate speed
  • Becoming angry or confused while driving
  • Hitting curbs
  • Using poor lane control
  • Making errors at intersections
  • Confusing the brake and gas pedals
  • Returning from a routine drive later than usual
  • Forgetting the destination you are driving to during the trip

This is one of the most difficult conversations for many families. Driving equals independence for so many of us, especially here in the United States. It is often a celebrated right of passage that marks our freedom and “adult hood.”  Fortunately, there are LOTS of resources for helping families with this process. The Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Center online contains the following resources related to driving:

  • Details about how to have the conversation and 4 sample videos that demonstrate how that conversation may go
  • Tips for planning ahead
  • A link to Driving evaluation and assessment centers
  • Topic sheets on safety and driving
  • A link to alternative transportation options
  • A sample “driving contract”

Visit the Caregiver Center Dementia and Driving page by following this link: http://alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-and-driving.asp




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