Dementia comes with a number of symptoms, such as confusion and vision impairment, that make it challenging for people to drive. If your loved one has recently been diagnosed with dementia or you notice that his symptoms are getting worse, it may be time for his to hang up the keys. How can you tell if driving is no longer safe for your relative? A driving test may help those experiencing memory loss know whether it's no longer a good idea to get behind the wheel.
According to Health After 50, many health professionals recommend that older adults consider discontinuing driving once they begin to experience mild dementia. However, this isn't a rule of thumb that's suggested by all doctors, as many argue that plenty of people with mild dementia still have the mental capacity to drive.
In fact, the source mentioned that there have been studies that show 76 percent of mild-dementia patients are able to pass an on-road driving assessment. This is why many health professionals use the Clinical Dementia Rating scale to determine dementia severity for patients who are unsure when to stop driving.
CDR scale effective for some
The CDR scale evaluates the driving capabilities and other factors of daily functioning. Scores range from 0.5 to 3. Those with very mild dementia will get a score of 0.5, 1 for mild, 2 for moderate and 3 if they're experiencing severe dementia.
If someone gets a CDR score of 2 or 3, health professionals will suggest hanging up the keys. Another agreement between professionals is that people with scores of 0.5 should be permitted to continue driving. The uncertainty lies within the gray area of when patients get a score of 1.
As the driving test leaves room for debate, physicians usually suggest that dementia patients do a self-evaluation to support their test results. Everything from their attention spans to their ability to remember once-familiar faces and places can help determine whether driving is still a good idea.
What to ask before determining driving abilities
The Alzheimer's Association explained that because driving is a complex process that requires a series of manual skills and thought processes, adults with dementia should be able to respond and react quickly to what's going on around them and read and make sense of road signs while simultaneously paying attention to the road. Their memory should also be sharp enough to recall where they're going and how to get there. If they're having trouble meeting any of these requirements, it may be time for caregivers to sit down with them and discuss alternative forms of transportation.
Just as there are certain tasks that people with dementia should be able to perform in order to safely drive, there are also warning signs that suggest they shouldn't be able to get behind the wheel. The Mayo Clinic noted that caregivers should ride in the passenger's seat and observe their loved ones' driving skills. If they unsafely change lanes, get the brake and gas pedals confused, hit the curb or become angry or confused while driving, it might be best if they start allowing someone else to drive them to their destinations.
Making arrangements for alternative forms of transportation, such as rides from family or friends, taxis or senior car services - which can usually found in the Yellow Pages - will make giving up the keys easier for seniors, especially if they're having a hard time coping with the transition. Having meals delivered and friends and family visit to reduce the need to drive will also help.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living