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Wrong-Way Alzheimer’s Driver + 5 Warning Signs


See this police car’s dashcam video of a man with dementia zooming his BMW head-on towards it at highway speed. Often, people with dementia have no concept of the danger. Others notice the safety hazards first. Check out these warning signs, helpful tips & checklists.

5 Warning Signs for Drivers with Alzheimer’s

If the driver
with Alzheimer’s disease experiences one or more of the
following problems, it may be time to limit or stop driving.

Does the person with Alzheimer’s:

Continued below video…

  1. get lost while driving in a familiar location?
  2. fail to observe traffic signals?
  3. drive at an inappropriate speed?
  4. become angry, frustrated, or confused while driving?
  5. make slow or poor decisions?

Please do not wait for an accident to happen. Take action

8 Driving Hazards

Driving is a complex activity that demands quick reactions,
alert senses, and split-second decision making.

For a person with
Alzheimer’s disease, driving becomes increasingly difficult. Hazards include:

  1. Memory loss
  2. Impaired judgment
  3. Disorientation
  4. Impaired visual
    and spatial perception
  5. Slow reaction time
  6. Side-effects of certain medications
  7. Diminished attention span
  8. Inability to recognize cues such
    as stop signs and traffic lights.

Any one of these hazards can make driving particularly

Driving Evaluations in Dementia

People with Alzheimer’s who continue to drive can be a danger to
themselves, their passengers, and the community at large. As the
disease progresses, they lose driving skills and must stop driving.

Unfortunately, people with Alzheimer’s often cannot recognize
when they should no longer drive. This is a tremendous safety
concern. It is extremely important to have the impaired person’s
driving abilities carefully evaluated.

Explaining to the person with Alzheimer’s disease that he or she
can no longer drive can be extremely difficult. Loss of driving
privileges may represent a tremendous loss of independence,
freedom, and identity. It is a significant concern for the person
with Alzheimer’s and the caregiver. The issue of not driving may
produce anger, denial, and grief in the person with Alzheimer’s, as
well as guilt and anxiety in the caregiver. Family and concerned
professionals need to be both sensitive and firm. Above all, they
should be persistent and consistent.

Doctors Can Help Restrict the Alzheimer’s Driver

The doctor of a person with Alzheimer’s disease can assist the
family with the task of restricting driving. Talk with the doctor
about your concerns. Most people will listen to their doctor. Ask
the doctor to advise the person with Alzheimer’s to reduce his
or her driving, go for a driving evaluation or test, or stop driving
altogether. An increasing number of States have laws requiring
physicians to report Alzheimer’s and related disorders to the
Department of Motor Vehicles. The Department of Motor Vehicles
then is responsible for retesting the at-risk driver. Testing should
occur regularly, at least yearly.

When dementia impairs driving and the person with Alzheimer’s
disease continues to insist on driving, a number of different
approaches may be necessary.

Work as a team with family, friends, and professionals, and
use a single, simple explanation for the loss of driving ability
such as:

  • "You have a memory problem, and it is no longer safe
    to drive."
  • "You cannot drive because you are on medication."
  • "The doctor has prescribed that you no longer drive."

Ask the doctor to write on a prescription pad, DO NOT
. Ask the doctor to write to the Department of Motor
Vehicles or Department of Public Safety saying this person
should no longer drive. Show the letter to the person with
Alzheimer’s disease as evidence.

10 Ways Family Can Help

  1. Offer to drive, or ask a friend or family member to drive.
  2. Walk when possible, and make these outings special events.
  3. Use public transportation or any special transportation
    provided by community organizations. Ask about senior
    discounts or transportation coupons. The person with
    Alzheimer’s should not take public transportation
  4. Park the car at a friend’s home.
  5. Hide the car keys.
  6. Exchange car keys with a set of unusable keys. Some people
    with Alzheimer’s are in the habit of carrying keys.
  7. Place a large note under the car hood requesting that any
    mechanic call you before doing work requested by the person
    with Alzheimer’s disease.
  8. Have a mechanic install a "kill switch" or alarm system that
    disengages the fuel line to prevent the car from starting.
  9. Consider selling the car and putting aside for taxi fares the
    money saved from insurance, repairs, and gasoline.
  10. Do not leave a person with Alzheimer’s alone in a parked car.

Related Video

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May 28, 2017 2:57 pm

Papageorgiou et al. Does the diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease imply
immediate revocation of a driving license?. International Journal of Clinical Neurosciences and Mental Health 2016; 3(Suppl. 1):S0x

Driving competence is strongly related to the autonomy and the feelings of self-worth of advanced agers. At present, older
drivers appear to retain their driving license for longer periods of time as well as to drive more commonly and to cover longer
distances as compared to the past. Nonetheless according to epidemiological data, older individuals appear to be a vulnerable
driving group that manifests increased rates of road fatalities. Along this vein, several lines of previous research have
focused on exploring the driving behavior of individuals with two common cognitive disorders, namely Alzheimer-dementia
(AD) and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Based on previous findings, patients with AD commonly present increased driving
difficulties at a level that clearly supports the discontinuation of driving. Nonetheless, some patients with AD, especially in the
mild stages, retain adequate driving skills that are similar to those of cognitively intact individuals of similar age. As concern
the group of drivers with MCI, it seems that there is an accentuated risk to develop driving difficulties, but their performance is
not consistently worse than that of healthy control drivers. Nonetheless, additional studies are warranted for detecting useful
predictors of driving behavior in the specific clinical group. Under this perspective and by integrating the previous findings,
we suggest the need for implementing a personalized approach when taking decisions about the driving competence of
drivers with AD and MCI that is based on the effective synthesis of multimodal driving-related indexes by the specialties of
neurology, neuropsychology and transportation engineering.

B. Berger

B. Berger

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This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chaffe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. With a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia appearing on the internet every 7 minutes, the site’s focus on the best information has been a help to many over the past 15 years. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

The site is dedicated to all those preserving the dignity of the community of people living with dementia.

Peter Berger, Editor


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