Dementia and Driving Don't Mix
WebMD News Archive
Soon after this incident, her husband took the family van very early one
morning. "I found out about that when I got a call from a woman who told me
that my husband had pulled into a gas station, lost. He asked her to call home
and gave her a phone number. It was his mother's phone number," says
Bascom. In a final misadventure, her husband drove to the airport; once there,
he became confused and was detained by airport security, she says.
Her husband's car is now being kept at another location, and Bascom says she
plans to sell it. "He sometimes asks me, 'Where is my car?' and I just tell
him it's in the shop being fixed," she says.
Bascom's story is typical, says Dubinsky; driving is a very emotional issue,
and taking away driving privileges can severely limit mobility.
"We have a big problem nationwide because we don't have good public
transportation, and it can be quite difficult to live an independent life
without driving," says Dubinsky. Nonetheless, he says that physicians need
to step in and tell the patient that he or she can not longer drive. Since the
issue is so emotionally charged, "it's better for the physician to 'take
the blame,'" he says.
Susan, who asked for anonymity, says taking the blame is a big issue. She
says that her father, Walter, deteriorated over a very brief period of time,
during which he made several desperate attempts to "get home -- home being
the south side of Chicago where he [lived] many years ago," she says. His
children were terrified by what could happen to him.
After one such episode, one of Susan's sisters exercised a durable power of
attorney and had Walter admitted "to a secure Alzheimer's unit. ... Our
whole family has been in upheaval," says Susan. She says that she is glad
the AAN is issuing guidelines so that "other families may be
Dubinsky adds that some states require physicians to inform the departments
of motor vehicles about the need to prohibit driving. In California, for
example, Alzheimer's disease is a diagnosis that must be reported to the DMV,
which automatically revokes the patient's license. Patients are, however,
allowed an appeal.