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
The Oscar-nominated movie Away from Her portrays a long-married
couple struggling with Alzheimer's disease and the emotional toll it causes when
the wife, played by actress Julie Christie, gives her affection to another man
whom she meets in a nursing home.
This heart-wrenching and emotional dramatization of Alzheimer's brings home
the difficulties families face when a person's ability to recognize and
maintain relationships gradually declines -- especially when the relationship
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