Memory Problems: Issues With Driving - Topic Overview
Whether a person with
Alzheimer's disease or another
dementia should still be allowed to drive is a common
dilemma faced by people who have the disease and by their caregivers. Taking away
driving privileges may reduce the person's sense of independence and increase
dependence on family and friends. But it is extremely important to prevent the
person from driving when it is no longer safe.
Experts recommend people not drive if they have moderate Alzheimer's
disease—when memory loss is noticeable and complex activities are
It's one of the most feared brain diseases: Alzheimer's. It robs people of their memory bit by bit, has no cure -- and with an aging population, shows no sign of slowing down.
The media is riddled with stories about its causes, symptoms, and prevention. But some of those reports don't tell the whole story.
Here are seven common misunderstandings about Alzheimer’s disease and the truths behind them.
A diagnosis of Alzheimer's
disease or another dementia does not mean that the person needs to stop driving
immediately. People in the very early stages of the disease should have
their driving performance checked to make sure they can drive safely. Also,
their doctors should reassess their condition about every 6 months, because the
disease is likely to progress. Family members can help detect changes in the
person's ability to drive by riding along when the person is driving. Some
people who have very mild Alzheimer's disease may be able to continue to drive
safely for a year or more.
to adequate vision, hearing, and coordination, safe driving requires the
Make quick decisions.
Remember the rules of the road.
These abilities decline at different rates in different
people who have dementia. So it is important to monitor changes in ability to
continue driving. It often is up to family members or other caregivers to watch
for signs that the person should not be driving anymore. Warning signs may
Trouble remembering how to get to familiar
places, or having a hard time with new directions.
Forgetting which pedal is the gas and which is the
Driving too slow or too fast.
Stopping at the
wrong times (for example, at a green light).
Being confused or
overwhelmed during driving (for example, being confused by traffic
Making bad decisions during driving, or making decisions
Having trouble making left turns.
that other drivers honk a lot.
Dents or scrapes on the
Being angry or frustrated during driving.
staying in the correct lane (for example, drifting).
Not looking when
Taking much longer than it used to take to get
The family doctor may also be able to offer some guidance on
whether the person is able to drive safely.
Some people may become
angry or depressed when they are told they can no longer drive. They may try to
get access to the car anyway. If you are the caregiver, you may need to hide
the car keys or park the car in a different location. Be sure to arrange other
options for transportation so that the person does not feel cut off from
activities that take place outside the home.