Should Your Loved One with Dementia Be Driving?

January 29, 2021 | BY PHS Staff

No one wants to have this conversation with their aging parent, spouse or other loved one. Having “the talk” with your loved one about handing over their keys is a painful and uncomfortable one. You may be met with resistance, anger and confusion. But if the time has come where you have realized your loved one can no longer safely operate a vehicle, you must be strong and bolster your resolve.

This conversation is made even harder when your loved one is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia. Not only will you have to consider taking the keys away, you may also want to look into how Alzheimer’s home care can help in other ways. From transportation services to memory care services, there is help out there for you.

What to Consider

Alzheimer’s disease usually presents slowly over time, making it tough for family members to recognize that something is off. However, this progressive condition is often relentless, leaving seniors vulnerable during this in-between time. Whether your loved one has an official diagnosis or not, it’s important to be on the lookout for changes in their ability to handle daily tasks, and that includes driving.

Before you hesitate to have this conversation with your loved one, remember that their declining ability behind the wheel doesn’t just put them in jeopardy, it puts everyone around them at risk.

Seniors with even mild cognitive impairments still pose a danger behind the wheel. Studies show that those in the early stages of dementia have twice as many serious driving errors as those who don’t have dementia, according to AgingCare. Some of the difficulties study participants had included trouble with lane positioning, stopping the vehicle properly, paying attention, following the rules of the road, and slow response time, depth perception and decision‐making abilities.

Signs it’s Time to Stop Driving

Be on the lookout for these signs of unsafe driving, points out the Mayo Clinic. Does your senior:

  • Repeatedly get lost when driving to familiar places?
  • Have a hard time staying in their lane?
  • Get confused between the brake and gas pedals?
  • Ignore traffic signs?
  • Make slow or poor decisions?
  • Hit the curb when driving?
  • Drive too slowly or too fast?
  • Get angry or confused when driving?
  • Get into a lot of accidents or get a lot of traffic tickets?

If you answered yes to any of the above, it’s time to consider the conversation. Ask your loved one’s doctor at their next visit about his or her opinion about driving. Let them know your concerns. Be sensitive to your senior’s reaction, and approach it in a manner that conveys you are concerned about them.

Many seniors, especially parents of adult children, don’t like to give up control in a relationship that for decades had been the other way around.

Here are some tips for having that initial conversation, as well as follow-up ones:

  • Broach the topic as soon as you notice something is wrong, and involve their doctor right away. Your loved one may not listen to you, but may be more inclined to listen to their physician.
  • Involve them in the planning and decision-making process.
  • Make sure they understand it’s not just about their own safety, it’s about the safety of other drivers and pedestrians.
  • Be aware of their feelings and be gentle in your approach.

Many times, seniors are reluctant to give up driving privileges because they don’t want to feel trapped in their homes. They want to attend religious services every week like they have been for years, they want to pick up their prescriptions from the pharmacy, and they want to visit a friend for coffee.

Remind them that they don’t have to give up those things. Offer your own services of transportation if possible, and let them know in home care professionals also offer transportation services for their convenience. Giving them a solution may help them retain their sense of control.

Contact Preferred HealthStaff

If you and your senior loved one have decided they shouldn’t drive any longer, don’t worry. Preferred HealthStaff offers transportation services for homebound seniors. To learn more about our Alzheimer’s in home care, contact us toll free at 866-943-9791 or in Fairfield 717-642-8500.