Wednesday, September 14

Wrong-Way Alzheimer's Driver + 5 Warning Signs


See this police car's dashcam video of a man with dementia zooming his BMW head-on towards it at highway speed. Often, people with dementia have no concept of the danger. Others notice the safety hazards first. Check out these warning signs, helpful tips & checklists.

5 Warning Signs for Drivers with Alzheimer's

If the driver with Alzheimer's disease experiences one or more of the following problems, it may be time to limit or stop driving.

Does the person with Alzheimer's:

Continued below video...

  1. get lost while driving in a familiar location?
  2. fail to observe traffic signals?
  3. drive at an inappropriate speed?
  4. become angry, frustrated, or confused while driving?
  5. make slow or poor decisions?
Please do not wait for an accident to happen. Take action immediately!

8 Driving Hazards

Driving is a complex activity that demands quick reactions, alert senses, and split-second decision making.

For a person with Alzheimer's disease, driving becomes increasingly difficult. Hazards include:
  1. Memory loss
  2. Impaired judgment
  3. Disorientation
  4. Impaired visual and spatial perception
  5. Slow reaction time
  6. Side-effects of certain medications
  7. Diminished attention span
  8. Inability to recognize cues such as stop signs and traffic lights.
Any one of these hazards can make driving particularly hazardous.

Driving Evaluations in Dementia

People with Alzheimer's who continue to drive can be a danger to themselves, their passengers, and the community at large. As the disease progresses, they lose driving skills and must stop driving.

Unfortunately, people with Alzheimer's often cannot recognize when they should no longer drive. This is a tremendous safety concern. It is extremely important to have the impaired person's driving abilities carefully evaluated.

Explaining to the person with Alzheimer's disease that he or she can no longer drive can be extremely difficult. Loss of driving privileges may represent a tremendous loss of independence, freedom, and identity. It is a significant concern for the person with Alzheimer's and the caregiver. The issue of not driving may produce anger, denial, and grief in the person with Alzheimer's, as well as guilt and anxiety in the caregiver. Family and concerned professionals need to be both sensitive and firm. Above all, they should be persistent and consistent.

Doctors Can Help Restrict the Alzheimer's Driver

The doctor of a person with Alzheimer's disease can assist the family with the task of restricting driving. Talk with the doctor about your concerns. Most people will listen to their doctor. Ask the doctor to advise the person with Alzheimer's to reduce his or her driving, go for a driving evaluation or test, or stop driving altogether. An increasing number of States have laws requiring physicians to report Alzheimer's and related disorders to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The Department of Motor Vehicles then is responsible for retesting the at-risk driver. Testing should occur regularly, at least yearly.

When dementia impairs driving and the person with Alzheimer's disease continues to insist on driving, a number of different approaches may be necessary.

Work as a team with family, friends, and professionals, and use a single, simple explanation for the loss of driving ability such as:
  • "You have a memory problem, and it is no longer safe to drive."
  • "You cannot drive because you are on medication."
  • "The doctor has prescribed that you no longer drive."
Ask the doctor to write on a prescription pad, DO NOT DRIVE. Ask the doctor to write to the Department of Motor Vehicles or Department of Public Safety saying this person should no longer drive. Show the letter to the person with Alzheimer's disease as evidence.

10 Ways Family Can Help

  1. Offer to drive, or ask a friend or family member to drive.
  2. Walk when possible, and make these outings special events.
  3. Use public transportation or any special transportation provided by community organizations. Ask about senior discounts or transportation coupons. The person with Alzheimer's should not take public transportation unsupervised.
  4. Park the car at a friend's home.
  5. Hide the car keys.
  6. Exchange car keys with a set of unusable keys. Some people with Alzheimer's are in the habit of carrying keys.
  7. Place a large note under the car hood requesting that any mechanic call you before doing work requested by the person with Alzheimer's disease.
  8. Have a mechanic install a "kill switch" or alarm system that disengages the fuel line to prevent the car from starting.
  9. Consider selling the car and putting aside for taxi fares the money saved from insurance, repairs, and gasoline.
  10. Do not leave a person with Alzheimer's alone in a parked car.

Related Video

Comment or Share:

    Papageorgiou et al. Does the diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease imply
    immediate revocation of a driving license?. International Journal of Clinical Neurosciences and Mental Health 2016; 3(Suppl. 1):S0x
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21035/ijcnmh.2016.3(Suppl.1).S0x

    Driving competence is strongly related to the autonomy and the feelings of self-worth of advanced agers. At present, older
    drivers appear to retain their driving license for longer periods of time as well as to drive more commonly and to cover longer
    distances as compared to the past. Nonetheless according to epidemiological data, older individuals appear to be a vulnerable
    driving group that manifests increased rates of road fatalities. Along this vein, several lines of previous research have
    focused on exploring the driving behavior of individuals with two common cognitive disorders, namely Alzheimer-dementia
    (AD) and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Based on previous findings, patients with AD commonly present increased driving
    difficulties at a level that clearly supports the discontinuation of driving. Nonetheless, some patients with AD, especially in the
    mild stages, retain adequate driving skills that are similar to those of cognitively intact individuals of similar age. As concern
    the group of drivers with MCI, it seems that there is an accentuated risk to develop driving difficulties, but their performance is
    not consistently worse than that of healthy control drivers. Nonetheless, additional studies are warranted for detecting useful
    predictors of driving behavior in the specific clinical group. Under this perspective and by integrating the previous findings,
    we suggest the need for implementing a personalized approach when taking decisions about the driving competence of
    drivers with AD and MCI that is based on the effective synthesis of multimodal driving-related indexes by the specialties of
    neurology, neuropsychology and transportation engineering.


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