The ability to get out of the house and go where you want when you want is a freedom many of us have enjoyed since we were sixteen! Driving is more than a routine part of adult life; it’s a powerful symbol of competence and independence. It’s also a hard activity to give up.
The focused concentration and quick reaction time needed for safe driving tend to decline as one ages, and for a person with Alzheimer’s disease, this process accelerates dramatically, which means it can be difficult for family members to know when it’s time for a loved one to hang up the keys.
The Warning Signs
Because Alzheimer’s diminishes reasoning skills, your loved one may resist the request to stop driving, so it’s often up to family caregivers to determine when their loved ones have become unsafe behind the wheel. Consider taking a drive with your loved one and watch for the following warning signs of unsafe driving:
- Forgetting how to locate familiar places
- Braking harder than normal for stoplights and stop signs
- Difficulty seeing things on the road
- Problems with changing lanes or making turns
- Running through stop signs
- Difficulty maintaining the car in the center of the lane
- Making slow or poor decisions
- Trouble turning his or her head before changing lanes
- Hitting the curb while driving
- Trouble adjusting to the oncoming glare of headlights
- Driving at an inappropriate speed (either too fast or too slow)
- Increased frustration, anger, or anxiety when driving
- Failure to use turn signals or mirrors
- Becoming angry and confused while driving
- Confusing the brake and gas pedal
- Increased confrontation with other drivers
- Failing to observe traffic signals or running through stop signs
- Becoming confused in simple driving situations or lost in familiar areas
- A series of close calls, collisions, or driving violations, even if they are minor
Most specialists feel it’s important to help the person with dementia stop driving as soon as possible. A rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether you feel safe riding in a car or having your family members, including children, riding in a car that the person with dementia is driving. Ask yourself if you would feel safe with your children playing on the sidewalk on a street where the person with dementia is driving. If the answer is no, then you know it’s time for him or her to retire from driving.
If your loved one will not stop voluntarily, it is important to check with the state Department of Motor Vehicles to find out the procedure for evaluating the person’s driving ability. Many facilities offer a thorough driver safety evaluation to determine whether it is safe for the person to continue driving. You might also get a note from your loved one’s doctor indicating that he or she should stop driving or simply take control of the keys if needed.
Remember that the ability to drive gives your loved one a sense of independence, and losing that ability isn’t easy. Arranging for alternative transportation via the services of Best Senior Home Care of Manhattan can help ease the transition. At Best Senior Home Care, we can help your loved one get to social events, doctors’ or hair appointments or outings to the grocery store, park, church, etc. using public or private transportation accompanied by a trusted Best Senior Home Care caregiver. If it’s time for your senior loved one to give up the keys, contact us! We’re always available to plan and arrange for your loved one’s accompanied transportation needs, and to assist with any other New York senior support services you need.