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Can People With Dementia Drive

Keeping Safe While You Are Still Driving

Find out if your loved one with dementia is safe to drive!

If your GP and/or licensing authority decides that you can continue to drive, there are many adaptions to allow you to keep you safe in the car and on the road including:

  • Swap to a small car that parks easily
  • Dont drive self-locking cars or if you do have one, disable the setting
  • Know exactly where you need to go and dont deviate from the route
  • Use a GPS device such a Google Maps in the car, especially if youre going somewhere unfamiliar
  • When possible, try not to drive alone. Having someone in the car can be helpful
  • Avoid driving at night
  • Avoid busy roads, freeways and busy intersections

A Legal Case Involving Consent For Sexual Activity And Dementia

In 2015, a couple made news due to this very question of capacity to consent to sexual activity. The coupleHenry and Donna Rayhonslived in Iowa and were married in 2007 after meeting later in life. Several years later, Donna developed Alzheimer’s disease.

Fast forward to May 2014, when Henry Rayhons, age 78, was accused of sexually abusing his wife in the nursing home where she resided due to her dementia.

Rayhons contended that he did not have intercourse with his wife on that particular night but stated that they had kissed and touched each other. He also reported that she initiated sexual interaction from time to time. The nursing home where his wife resided, however, felt that she could not consent to sexual activity and reported the issue to the police after hearing that sexual activity had occurred between the two.

Eventually, the case went to court and, after testimonies and deliberation, the jury found Rayhons not guilty. However, the case stirred up many questions regarding sexual activity among people living with dementia, including the issue of how to determine the capacity to consent and who should make that determination.

Planning For The Future

If possible, make decisions while your loved one is able to take part in the decision making. These are difficult but important conversations. Questions include:

  • What kind of care does he or she need right now?
  • Who will take care of him or her in the future?
  • What can the family expect as the disease progresses?
  • What kind of financial and legal planning needs to be done?

Education of the family and other caregivers is critical to successfully caring for someone who has dementia. If you are or will be a caregiver, start learning what you can expect and what you can do to manage problems as they arise. For more information, see Home Treatment.

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Support For The Person With Dementia

Giving up driving can be very difficult for a person with dementia and can often cause a lot of frustration and feelings of loss, particularly if they have driven their whole life. It is important to acknowledge this is how they may be feeling and allow them to talk about this openly, even if you are unable to provide a resolution.

Stopping driving can mean a loss of independence for a person with dementia and therefore it can help to encourage them to take more control over other aspects of their life, for example, finding other means of transport.

It may also be helpful for the person with dementia to discuss these feelings with other professionals or people who have been through the same thing. Most mobility centres provide an aftercare service for people who have stopped driving . It may also be worth finding local dementia groups such as memory cafes, in which the person is able to talk about this experience with others who are in a similar position. Online groups and discussions boards may also be a useful way of sharing experiences.

How Is Dementia Diagnosed

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There is no single test for dementia. To diagnose it, your doctor will:

  • Do a physical examination.
  • Ask questions about recent and past illnesses and life events. The doctor will want to talk to a close family member to check details.
  • Ask you to do some simple things that test your memory and other mental skills. Your doctor may ask you to tell what day and year it is, repeat a series of words, or draw a clock face.

The doctor may do tests to look for a cause that can be treated. For example, you might have blood tests to check your thyroid or to look for an infection. You might also have a test that shows a picture of your brain, like an MRI or a CT scan. These tests can help your doctor find a tumour or brain injury.

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Alzheimers: Not Like Common Changes In Later Life

Alzheimers Disease is not like other changes in later life that affect driving, such as eyesight problems and slow reaction times. Many older adults who don’t have dementia can assess their driving without family intervention and make gradual changes to the way they drive. And most are able to continue driving safely throughout their lives.

How Moderate And Severe Dementia Affect Driving

People with moderate or severe dementia will not be able to safely operate a motor vehicle because their driving skills and physical and mental abilities have deteriorated in the following ways:

  • Consciousness Inability to respond rationally to the environment. For example, what is seen is not comprehended. This can lead to serious accidents.
  • Cognitive Processing Inability to remember the destination. Inattentive to external stimuli such as pedestrians or oncoming traffic. Judgment is slow or poor in traffic situations.
  • Strength and Coordination Muscle control is weak and reflexes are too slow to react appropriately to traffic situations or hazards.

The cognitive and physical abilities of drivers who have been diagnosed with moderate or severe dementia will have deteriorated to such an extent that driving would be unsafe, and their driving privilege will be revoked.

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Driving Is Something Most People Take For Granted

It gives us freedom, flexibility and independence. While we will all need to step out from behind the wheel one day, conditions such as dementia can mean that the decision to stop driving needs to be planned for and made much earlier than expected.

Driving can seem like an automatic activity. However, it is a complicated task that requires complex thought processes, manual skills and fast reaction times. Dementia can cause loss of memory, limited concentration, and vision and insight problems. This affects a persons judgement and ability to drive safely.

A diagnosis of dementia does not always mean that a person has to give up driving straight away. Because the condition involves a gradual decline in cognitive and physical ability however, they will need to stop driving at some point.

The experience of giving up driving can be very difficult for many people, and the sense of grief and loss can be ongoing.

For quality of life and wellbeing, its vital to think about and plan ways that a person living with dementia and their families and carers can keep mobile, active and socially connected in the transition to non-driving.

Can I Still Drive With Dementia

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A diagnosis of dementia doesnt necessarily mean you have to stop driving, but you must inform the DVLA straight away

If you have just been diagnosed with dementia, you may be wondering if you can continue to drive. Being diagnosed with dementia doesnt necessarily mean youll have to stop driving straight away, although you will need to stop eventually. According to Alzheimers Society, most people with dementia tend to stop driving within three years of being diagnosed.

Its important to be aware that you have a legal obligation to notify the DVLA or the DVLNI of your diagnosis immediately. If you dont tell the DVLA of any medical conditions that may affect your driving you could be fined up to £1000 and you could be prosecuted if you are involved in an accident. Failure to let them know about your dementia means you are breaking the law.

To inform the DVLA, you can download and complete a form CG1, a four-page questionnaire from the DVLAs website. For more information, .

However, if you have been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, you will need to fill in a B1 form. For more information, .

If the DVLA decides you are eligible to drive, it will issue a new driving licence for a fixed period, usually of around one to three years, depending on the current stage of your dementia. Your condition will usually be reviewed once a year. If you have any concerns about your driving, its worth asking relatives to observe your driving on a regular basis.

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Listen To The Concerns Of Others

If relatives, friends, or others express concerns about your driving, it may be time to take a hard, honest look at your driving ability. Have a comprehensive driving evaluation performed by an occupational therapist. Brush up on your driving skills by taking a refresher course. Talk to your doctor about your ability to drive safely.

Professional evaluation of driving safety

An occupational therapist or certified driver rehabilitation specialist can provide a comprehensive evaluation of the skills needed to drive and recommend car modifications or tools to keep someone driving as long as possible. Such an evaluation can also help diffuse accusations from family by providing a neutral third-party perspective.

You can ask your medical treatment team for a referral, or visit the websites listed in the Get more help section below.

Risky Driving Behaviours Caused By Dementia

If you’ve been driving for many years, driving may feel mostly automatic. However, as dementia progresses, it will change your abilities, such as your level of concentration, judgement, orientation, perception and physical ability â all important and necessary skills for driving.

As a result, regardless of your driving skill and experience before you started having symptoms, your dementia will eventually put you at a higher risk for the following driving behaviours:

  • Slow response times,
  • Taking too much time to reach a destination or not reaching the destination at all,
  • Driving too slowly or too fast,
  • Driving through stop signs or red traffic lights,
  • Stopping at green traffic lights,
  • Having difficulty merging with traffic,
  • Making left hand turns in the face of oncoming traffic and pedestrians crossing the intersection.

These behaviours can increase your risk of a collision, which can cause serious injury and death for you and other people.

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When Should Someone With Dementia Stop Driving

Driving is one of the most difficult issues that family caregivers face with their aging loved ones, and Alzheimers disease and related dementias complicate this matter even further. When Mom or Dad isnt aware of their cognitive impairment and has trouble following the logic of your argument against them getting on the road, conversations about taking away the keys often turn into a repetitive exercise in futility.

It can be very tricky for a family caregiver to determine when exactly to step in. Different types of dementia can cause a whole host of symptoms that worsen at variable speeds. Furthermore, dementia presents differently in each person and symptoms can fluctuate in severity from day to day. The unpredictable nature of this condition necessitates strong, proactive measures to help ensure a seniors safety and preserve their remaining functionality. This holds especially true for issues like driving that also affect public safety. The minute you suspect that something is off, you must act.

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Having The Conversation About Not Driving With Dementia

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This can be difficult, especially if the person with dementia has been a figure of authority, like your mother or father. Losing the ability to drive can be emotional, so be prepared with hard, non-emotional evidence to make your case. Treat your preparation like youre getting ready for trial: accumulate evidence to make a strong case.

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Maintaining Your Driving Ability

The good news is that, while your symptoms are mild, you can take steps to help you drive safely and independently for as long as possible:

  • Settle into a consistent routine. Stick to the same route when you drive from place to place. Figure out when you most need to drive, and follow that plan. For example, do you drive to medical appointments, to shop, to meet with friends? Are there times when someone else can drive?
  • Drive with someone that can assess your driving abilities on an ongoing basis. They can notice if there are any changes in your driving abilities and can spot risky behaviours that you may not be aware of.
  • Use technology to support your capacity to drive. If you’re driving by yourself, use assistive technologies such as a GPS to help you.
  • Above all, living well with dementia has been shown to slow the progression of dementia. Challenging your brain, following a good diet and staying physically and socially active will all help you stay in the early stage of dementia for as long as possible.

How Does Age Affect Driving

For many of us, driving is a major aspect of maintaining our independence as we age. By reducing risk factors and incorporating safe driving practices, you may be able to continue driving safely long into your senior years. But even if you find that you need to reduce your driving or give up the keys, it doesnt mean the end of your independence.

Everyone ages differently, so there is no arbitrary cutoff as to when someone should stop driving. However, older adults are more likely to receive traffic citations and get into accidents than younger drivers. What causes this increase? As we age, factors such as decreased vision, impaired hearing, slower motor reflexes, and worsening health conditions can become a problem.

Aging also tends to result in a reduction of strength, coordination, and flexibility, which can impact your ability to safely control a car. For example:

  • Neck pain or stiffness can make it harder to look over your shoulder.
  • Leg pain can make it difficult to move your foot from the gas to the brake pedal.
  • Diminished arm strength can make it hard to turn the steering wheel quickly and effectively.
  • Your reaction times can slow down with age.
  • You can lose the ability to effectively divide your attention between multiple activities.

Seeking alternative methods of transportation can offer health and social benefits, as well as a welcome change of pace to life. You may even be able to prolong other aspects of your independence.

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Warning Signs Your Loved One Should Not Be Driving

Getting angry on the road is typical for many drivers, but if your loved one is becoming especially frustrated or confused while driving, this is a good indicator that its time to take the keys away. Other signs to look out for:

Missing or disregarding traffic signs and signals. Veering outside the lane. Decreased use of appropriate driving etiquette. Forgets the destination or gets lost on familiar roads. Increasing dependence on navigation aids in their home area. Difficulty determining the brake pedal from the gas pedal. New dings, dents, or scratches in the paint of the car.

People in the middle to late stages of dementia should not be driving, because the danger to themselves and others is too great. Its too easy to, for instance, lose focus and run a red light. The sad fact is that everyone with dementia will have to stop driving at some point, probably within three years, and its up to the people around them to determine when that point is. Consulting with the doctor or having the local Department of Motor Vehicles administer a driving test are ways to get a concrete answer, rather than leaving it up to your own feel.

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How to stop your loved one with dementia from driving

Are you worried that your parent or grandparent is unsafe behind the wheel? Dementia affects everyone differently, but it often disrupts the motor skills and cognitive skills that are necessary for safe driving. While the pace and severity of the disease are unpredictable, a diagnosis is always a good reason to pay closer attention to driving with dementia. From disorientation and aggression to slow response times and poor reasoning abilities, common dementia symptoms are downright dangerous when mixed with motor vehicles. As Alzheimers disease progresses, it may fall to loved ones to recognize the warning signs and take action for people who are driving with dementia.

Of course, you dont want to make this call too early and risk alienating or limiting the independence of someone you loveor wait too long and take an even bigger risk. Thats why its so important to learn when and how to spot the telltale signs that driving is no longer safe. Here are six of the biggest indicators that your loved ones dementia is a road hazard and its time to take the keys:

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Can People Living With Dementia Drive

Having a diagnosis of dementia does not necessarily mean you have to give up driving. Each person living with dementia is different and you will experience different symptoms to the next person. For some people, the symptoms are mild and dont get in the way of your ability to drive safely.

When you are diagnosed with dementia you will have already had a number of medical tests to look at your cognitive abilities. In many cases, the doctor who diagnoses you will be able to tell you whether they think you should be able to continue driving or not. In some cases, they might advise you to undergo further tests to assess your ability to drive.

Whatever your situation, you must contact the DVLA and your car insurance provider to tell them that you have a diagnosis of dementia. If you dont tell the DVLA, you risk a fine of £1,000. When the DVLA receives your notification of your diagnosis they will contact your GP for further information, before making a decision as to whether you can continue to drive.


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