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Driving safely with Alzheimer's Disease

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07/30/2009 - Questions and Answers

Driving safely with Alzheimer's Disease

By: Novoviva webmaster

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Question

My dad has early Alzheimer's but he still drives himself about town. Do you think we should take his car away? He'd be heartbroken. What are the risks of driving with Alzheimer's disease?

Are there any medications he could take?
 

Answer

It is understandable to be concerned about your Dad driving his car, and it is good that you realise "he'd be heartbroken" should he be informed suddenly that he is unable to continue driving. The information we provide here for you will help you realise that, as your father has early Alzheimer's and is still driving himself about, he needs to also be involved by sharing the information with him, so, when the time actually comes for making the decision to stop driving, he will then cope better.
 

There are a number of activities, driving is one, in which our behavior changes over time. When older folk discover that as they age so their confidence, ability to react quickly and their desire to drive long distances has diminished, they can adapt their driving pattern and avoid driving at night, or in bad weather.
 

Driving safely with Alzheimer's Disease: It is known that people with Alzheimer's disease drive, on average, 2.5 years following diagnosis but that certainly does not mean that everyone with Alzheimer's should as it affects people in different ways and some more quickly than others. People with early stage, very mild Alzheimer's disease, can and do drive safely, however when the disease progresses to the moderate or severe stages, at what point should someone with Alzheimer's disease stop driving? There are some early and clear warning signs that Alzheimer's is affecting your driving. For example, you might: Need more help than you used to with directions, or with learning a new driving route; Have trouble remembering where you are going, or where you left your car; Get lost on routes that were once familiar; Have trouble making turns, especially left turns; Feel confused when exiting a highway, or by traffic signs such as a four-way stop; Receive citations for moving violations; Find other drivers often honk their horns at you; Stop at a green light, or brake inappropriately; Drift out of your lane; Have less control over your muscles so it may be harder to push down on the pedals or turn the steering wheel; Find dents and scrapes on your car that you can't explain; Find that others are questioning your driving safety; and Have a hard time controlling your anger, sadness, or other emotions that can affect your driving. Here are some general 'Safe Driving Tips': drive shorter distances - stick to familiar routes - don't drive at night - don't drive in bad weather - don't travel on busy roads - avoid driving on weekdays or in peak traffic flow- always try use the same vehicle. Do Not Drive If: you've recently had an accident - you've become lost when you are driving - you have a recent traffic violation - if your family and friends tell you your driving is no longer safe - if you are told by your medical team or law-enforcement officers not to drive.People with Alzheimer's disease, who may not have enough insight into their abilities, may have to firmly persuaded or actively prevented from driving for their own safety and the safety of others.We hope these guidelines will be helpful to you and your Dad and ease the concerns about safe driving with Alzheimer's. You also enquired about medications. Hopefully your Dad is being attended by a doctor who understands Alzheimer's disease and the available medications. Please see the related links below for relevant information regarding available Alzheimer's medications which may be beneficial during further consultations.
 

 

Related Links

DIY Alzheimer’s test
Safe Driving and the Person with Alzheimer's Disease
Can I drive with early Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's Medications
Alzheimer's Disease

Created on: 07/29/2006
Reviewed on: 07/30/2009

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