Driving is a skill that many of us develop at a young age, and hone over years of experience behind the wheel. To be safe and responsible drivers, we are constantly reminded that we must be sharp, to think clearly and respond quickly to any situation. Unfortunately, as we age, there are several barriers to our physical and mental ability to meet the challenges posed by driving. The kind of forgetfulness that causes some elderly individuals to occasionally forget someone’s name or misplace things is normal. But, forgetting how to get home and getting confused in familiar places can be signs of Alzheimer’s disease -- a disease of the brain that begins slowly and gets worse over time. When a driver begins to show signs of Alzheimer’s, it’s usually time to stop driving.
The first thing for caregivers, family and friends of those with Alzheimer’s or dementia to understand is that losing the independence of driving can be distressing and frightening. It is important to acknowledge their feelings and understand how upsetting it can be to experience these changes.
Signs that someone with Alzheimer’s needs to stop driving may be if they begin:
-Making slow or poor decisions in traffic
-Driving at inappropriate speeds
-Becoming angry or confused while driving
-Making errors at intersections
-Confusing the brake and gas pedals
-Returning from a routine drive later than usual
-Failing to observe traffic signs
Sometimes though, those showing signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia may not want to stop driving or even think there is a problem. It can be a difficult subject for loved ones and caregivers to approach, but it is for the safety of driver and everyone else on the road that it must be discussed.
Here are some tips of what you can say and do:
- Offer to drive them to their usual appointments or activities, or ask a friend or family member.
- Ask your loved one’s doctor to write a note or prescription saying they should no longer drive.
- Remain patient and calm if your loved one doesn’t give in right away. Appeal to their sense of responsibility.
- Take the keys away, disable the car or remove the car if your loved one refuses to stop driving.
The number of people in the United States aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s is expected to reach 7.7 million by 2030. The importance of talking with afflicted loved ones about driving will get increasingly more important as the more mobile aging population continues to drive. Hupy and Abraham believes that it is important for caregivers to make sure that those who have become a danger to themselves and others discontinue driving, and are provided empathetic and safe alternatives.This is a difficult topic, so if you have any questions, please contact Hupy and Abraham today. And in the event that you or a loved one are injured by a driver with Alzheimer’s, or have been injured in an accident caused by someone with Alzheimer’s, call 800-800-5678 to schedule a free consultation.