Driving with dementia can be dangerous, as the affected person may have symptoms of memory loss and brain degeneration, causing them to ultimately forget how to drive, which can be a major hazard to others on the road. It is important to know the symptoms of the disease, how driving with dementia can affect a person, and notice when the symptoms become too severe in order for the affected person to get off the roads. The affected person should work closely with a carer and a licensed physician to determine these stages, whilst also staying knowledgeable on driving with dementia.
What is dementia and what are the symptoms?
It is the name given to a group of diseases that affect a person’s ability to think, their behavior and their ability to perform everyday tasks. The causes of this disease are numerous and include Alzheimer’s disease. It is commonly associated with people in the ages of 65 and above. Every 5 years after 65 doubles your chances of developing it. There are subtle symptoms while in its onset stage, however, these symptoms progressively worsen and become more noticeable to the affected person and those around them. The early symptoms of the disease include memory loss, increased confusion, lack of concentration, mood swings and personality/behaviour changes, social withdrawal and the loss of ability to perform everyday tasks.
How does it affect you?
Driving with dementia exerts the symptoms mentioned above, which can interfere with a person’s ability to remember the skills required to operate a motor vehicle, and obey the road rules, putting themselves and others around them in danger. Driving with dementia can include symptoms of forgetting the purpose of the drive, ignoring traffic lights and stop signs, getting lost or confused in familiar areas, slower reactions and difficulty parking. These all can be major issues when obeying road rules and operating a motor vehicle and the risk of an accident is much higher than someone who are not driving with dementia.
When to stop driving
It is vital to keep talking to the affected person about their motor vehicle habits, and relaying these conversations to a physician, who can determine whether or not the affected person should leave the roads. This is important to prevent any danger that could manifest against the affected person or others around them. Conversations with the affected person should include topics such as their motor vehicle habits (to arrange better suited public transport options for areas they frequent), arrange for more at-home visits, an explanation of how driving with dementia can affect them and others, why they may need to stop, the reduced costs of not using a car and regular visits to the physician to discuss their health. Having this disease does not mean the affected person has to stop using the roads immediately, however, as symptoms progress it is important for them to realise they must stop at some point before they harm themselves or others around them.
Legally, in Australia, people driving with dementia must notify their state’s traffic authority. In order for the affected person to stay on the roads, the doctor must conduct a medical assessment (Assessing Fitness to Drive National Standards) in order to determine whether it is safe or not for the affected person to be allowed to. Ultimately, it will be the doctor’s decision as to whether the affected person will be allowed to legally operate a motor vehicle.
In conclusion, it is crucial to maintain conversations between the affected person and a physician to discuss their health, motor vehicle habits and how they are feeling, as this will determine whether it is worth it. Driving with dementia is possible, but can become difficult, and it is important to prevent danger early.