Cars in the road

Issues with memories and diseases that impact on our ability to drive safely can progress slowly over time, which can make it very hard for friends and family to distinguish when it is time to stop someone who is driving with dementia from getting behind the wheel of a car.

Unfortunately, the progressive nature of many of the conditions we experience in old age mean that seniors and the elderly tend to be at risk for a time between the initial onset of their condition and diagnosis by a health practitioner.

Driving with dementia can be a serious danger to the safety of seniors and hazardous to the community around them, so it’s important that those close to them can identify when it’s time for them to give up the use of their car. 

When should you stop driving with dementia?

Driving with dementia guidelines can be an extremely sensitive topic for many seniors. The use of a car offers independence and freedom, but cognitive impairment can put elderly drivers at serious risk and there comes a time when almost everyone will have to give up getting around in their car. If you notice that an elderly relative’s condition is worsening and believe that they can no longer safely operate a vehicle, then it might be time to have a conversation with them. That said many people who suffer from Alzheimer’s or similar conditions will experience anosognosia, which is basically when they are unaware of their impairment and not able to understand when you tell them. If your relative is not able to comprehend your arguments about them getting on the road, then it may be time to step in and take stronger measures to help preserve their safety. Unfortunately, those driving with dementia will sometimes reach the stage where they are not able to make the decision for themselves and trying to take their keys away from them can be a repeated issue. As soon as you think there may be an impairment issue with a loved one on the road, you should act. It is a matter of their safety and the safety of those around them.

Driving with dementia and wandering is dangerous

Senior man driving with dementia

Wandering is a common symptoms of diseases like Alzheimer’s and one that can begin at almost any stage. It often involves seniors leaving a safe environment to perform a task and then becoming disoriented. More than half of Alzheimer’s suffers will exhibit wandering behaviour during the progression of their disease. Having access to a car can be very dangerous with wandering behaviour as it means seniors can get a lot further away from safe places. It is much easier when seniors have access to a car for them to get into danger or to end up missing.

How to prevent people from driving with dementia

Many people are reluctant to take keys away from their loved ones because it limits their independence and it can be very difficult emotionally but ultimately if they show signs of impairment then it’s time to ensure they can’t get behind the wheel. This involves confiscating their keys, getting their license revoked and in some cases even removing their car.  The steps you’ll need to take depend on the personality and stubbornness of the senior that you’re dealing with. What you can do legally will depend on what powers of attorney you have and whether or not you are empowered to make decisions on their behalf.

Whilst it can be confronting to deal with the topic of driving with dementia, it’s an important issue to face head on as it’s about safety.