Alzheimers driving safety is a real concern for many people. When should they stop driving? How do you get them to stop driving? These are not easy questions to answer. Alzheimer's Disease affects everyone differently. Often the person in the early stages of the disease will question their own driving safety, but not always. It may be up to the family to make the decision.
There are several common warning signs which may signal it is time to intervene:
Becomes lost on a familiar route
Making slow or poor decisions
Forgetting how to locate familiar places
Has difficulty with turns, lane changes, or highway exits
Is increasingly nervous or irritated when driving
Driving at inappropriate speeds
Failing to observe traffic signals
Has difficult seeing pedestrians, objects, or other vehicles
Returning from a routine drive later than usual
If you suspect a family member has Alzheimer's Disease, then Alzheimers driving safety is probably a real concern for you. You should become familiar with these signs and really begin to watch for them. Remember it is not only their safety that is the issue here. An impaired driver places other lives at risk. Are there vision and hearing problems?
You need to ask yourself if they would be able to react quickly while driving should the need arise. Ask your self this question," if a child would run out in front of them while they were driving, would they be able to react quick enough to avoid hitting the child?" If the answer is no, they should not be driving.
Driving is an independence that most of us take for granted. Imagine if beginning tomorrow, you were never allowed to drive again. What would you do? How would you get to the store or your appointments? You would have to depend on others for everything you needed or wanted to do. For most people, driving is the hardest thing to give up.
Investigate the alternatives. Some cities offer a medi-van which will take people to medical appointments. Prescriptions and groceries can be delivered. Involve other family members. Maybe the grandson who has just started driving can make weekly grocery store runs. If they are a very social person, maybe carpooling would be an option. The last thing you want to do is to take away someones driving priveleges and leave them stranded at home alone.
You will need to begin this process by talking to your family member about your concerns and discuss the available options. Some people with Alzheimer's Disease will agree to stop driving but will have days they forget the agreement. They may see the car keys and just go for a drive. It is best to remove the vehicle and the keys from sight. You will need to approach Alzheimers driving safety early on in the illness. Families will often involve the family physician to help determine when it is time to stop driving. The Department of Motor Vehicles may also be able to assist you with an individual driving safety evaluation.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has some good information on older drivers and safety.
Facts About Older Drivers
31% Increase in people 65 and older from 2008 to 2017
Number of people 65 and older in the United States in 2017
Number of people 65 and older killed in traffic crashes in 2017 (18% of all traffic fatalities)
Remember it is everyone's responsibility to help maintain road safety. Prevention with Alzheimer's Disease is the best course of action.
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