Dementia and Driving Don't Mix
WebMD News Archive
Although he is reluctant to make blanket statements about driving ability,
John C. Morris, MD, professor of neurology at Washington University School of
Medicine, agrees. "These patients need to be re-evaluated every six months
because eventually every Alzheimer's patient will be an unsafe driver," he
says. Morris was not involved in drafting the guidelines but says he served as
a reviewer for the guidelines.
Louise H. Allen, PhD, says it slowly became apparent to her that her
husband's driving days were winding down. He was in the early stages of
Alzheimer's disease and he was having trouble recognizing his children. Her
clandestine reviews of the checkbook showed that he had trouble keeping track
of the finances.
For the first three months after the diagnosis, he continued to drive -- but
not alone. "I pretty much insisted on being with him," Allen says.
But she also had a long-term plan that would curb his driving. When his
driver's license renewal came in the mail, she hid it until the renewal time
expired. That meant her husband, a retired professor at the University of
Illinois, would have to go down to the motor vehicles department and re-take
his tests. When it became obvious he could no longer pass the written test, he
decided it was time to sell his car.
Not all drivers hang up their keys this gracefully, especially when they may
be the primary drivers in their household. "I was very lucky," says
Allen, herself a retired professor from the same university.
Joyce Bascom says her husband's driving skills also seemed to diminish very
silently. "Wes was first diagnosed about five years ago," she tells
WebMD. For some time he continued driving and working at the rental car agency
with no problems, she says. Then one day she had to take her car in for
repairs, so he followed her in his car.
"He was just driving very, very slowly so I told him that I would drive
his car back. When I got in the car I discovered there were no brakes. None.
That's when I knew he had to stop driving," she said.