CHICAGO — Driving demands quick reaction time and fast problem solving. As a result of the progressive nature of the disease, every person with Alzheimer’s will eventually become unable to drive. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends families discuss driving before a crisis, ideally while the person with Alzheimer’s is still able to participate in the conversation and the decision-making process.
“Driving is often associated with autonomy, so relinquishing car keys can be a very emotional and stressful process,” said Amanda Bogdanski, M.A., manager, information and referral and safety services for the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter. “Educating yourself on approaches and options prior to having this difficult conversation can help ease the transition for everyone involved.”
To assist with these conversations, the Alzheimer’s Association created four short videos depicting different scenarios for approaching driving and dementia. Watching the videos may give families an idea of how to start the conversation or how to respond to a particular objection. In one video, a woman in the early stages of Alzheimer’s drafts a contract saying she will reach a point when she can no longer drive and gives her children permission to step in. If the person with the disease is more resistant, another technique shown in the new videos is to secure a doctor’s “prescription” advising the person with Alzheimer’s to no longer drive.
Following each of the videos is a list of tips and techniques families can use when having the conversation about driving. The videos are housed within the Alzheimer’s Association online Dementia and Driving Resource Center, which contains helpful information about recognizing when driving is unsafe, finding alternate transportation and getting a driving evaluation. The project was supported by a grant from the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“Talking to loved ones who have Alzheimer’s disease about handing over their car keys can be difficult — especially if the individual is unable or unwilling to recognize their declining abilities,” said Administrator David Strickland of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “We are proud to have partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association on the development of these important tools to help individuals with dementia transition away from driving with dignity.”
Some people are able to continue driving in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, but it requires ongoing evaluation to ensure safety. Following are tips from the Alzheimer’s Association that could show it may be time for someone with Alzheimer’s disease to stop driving:
• Forgetting how to locate familiar places;
• Failing to observe traffic signs;
• Making slow or poor decisions in traffic;
• Driving at an inappropriate speed;
• Becoming angry or confused while driving;
• Hitting curbs;
• Using poor lane control;
• Making errors at intersections;
• Confusing the brake and gas pedals;
• Returning from a routine drive later than usual; or
• Forgetting the destination you are driving to during the trip.
The Alzheimer’s Association also provides example driving contracts and local evaluation specialists. For more about dementia and driving, visit www.alz.org/driving.
The Alzheimer’s Association, the world leader in Alzheimer research and support, is the largest voluntary health organization dedicated to finding prevention methods, treatments and a cure for Alzheimer’s. Since 1980, the donor-supported, nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association has provided reliable information and care consultation; created supportive services for families; increased funding for dementia research; and influenced public policy changes. The Greater Illinois Chapter serves 68 counties with offices in Bloomington, Carbondale, Chicago, Joliet, Rockford and Springfield.
For more details, call the Helpline at 800-272-3900 or visit www.alz.org/illinois.
From the Jan. 11-17, 2012, issue