Watch for These Dementia and Driving Warning Signs from Home & Hearth Caregivers
The ability to get up and go wherever we want, whenever we want is a freedom many of us may not give a second thought. Driving symbolizes so much more than just part of a daily routine; it represents both independence and self-reliance. And, it can be incredibly difficult when the time comes to give that up.
Driving requires sustained concentration and quick reaction time, both of which may decline as we age. In particular, someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia experiences an even more rapid loss of these functions – meaning that at some point, the tough decision needs to be made for the senior to stop driving and for alternate transportation options to be explored.
The Red Flags
Since Alzheimer’s disease impacts reasoning and judgment abilities, your loved one may balk at the idea of giving up the keys, so it’s often up to those providing the senior’s care to figure out when he or she has become unsafe behind the wheel. It can be helpful to go out for a short drive with your loved one, watching out for these warning signs of unsafe driving:
- Forgetting how to locate familiar places
- Braking harder than normal for stoplights and stop signs
- Difficulty seeing things on the road
- Problems with changing lanes or making turns
- Running through stop signs
- Difficulty maintaining the car in the center of the lane
- Making slow or poor decisions
- Trouble turning his or her head before changing lanes
- Hitting the curb while driving
- Trouble adjusting to the oncoming glare of headlights
- Driving at an inappropriate speed (either too fast or too slow)
- Increased frustration, anger, or anxiety when driving
- Failure to use turn signals or mirrors
- Becoming angry and confused while driving
- Confusing the brake and gas pedal
- Increased confrontation with other drivers
- Failing to observe traffic signals or running through stop signs
- Becoming confused in simple driving situations or lost in familiar areas
- A series of close calls, collisions, or driving violations, even if they are minor
If safety seems to be compromised at all, it’s crucial that the person with dementia discontinue driving immediately. If you’re unsure, ask yourself: “Do I feel safe riding in a car or having my family members, including kids, riding in a car that the person with dementia is driving? And, would I feel safe if my children were playing on the sidewalk on a street where the person with dementia was driving?” If the answer is no, you’ll know it’s time for the senior to cease driving.
This can be easier said than done. If the senior simply refuses to stop driving, check with the state Department of Motor Vehicles to find out their procedure for evaluating a person’s driving ability. Many facilities provide extensive driver safety evaluations to see whether it’s safe for a person to continue driving. You can also try requesting a note from the senior’s physician indicating that he or she should stop driving, or simply place the keys out of the senior’s sight if needed.
Keep in mind that being able to drive gives your loved one a sense of freedom, and losing that independence isn’t easy. Arranging for alternative transportation through the services of a professional home care agency, like Home & Hearth Caregivers, can help make the transition easier.
At Home & Hearth Caregivers, we’ll make sure your loved one is able to safely get to social events, doctors’ or hair appointments or outings to the grocery store, park, church, etc., accompanied by one of our trusted caregivers. Our senior transportation service, Ride4U, provides safe, courteous, and reliable transportation for seniors in DuPage and surrounding counties.
When the time comes for your senior loved one to stop driving, contact us at 800-349-0663. We’re on hand to plan and arrange for your loved one’s accompanied transportation needs, and to assist with any other Illinois senior support services you need.