When is it time to have the discussion about whether or not your loved one should drive alone anymore? Driving has likely been a huge part of their adulthood, a symbol of their independence. Giving up driving abilities is a sensitive issue, so we at CareYaya put together a post about how to carefully address this topic.
Here are some challenges associated with the relationship between dementia and driving:
For starters, driving is a public safety matter that concerns more than your loved one. That alone adds weight to the conversation. Secondly, the self-rating of one’s driving ability is not accurate. We tend to overestimate our driving abilities, especially if we want to be able to keep our driving privileges. People with dementia might not recognize the changes in their driving abilities, so we have to rely on the family or caregiver’s rating as an accurate predictor of medical fitness. This can be a difficult factor for your loved one because it may feel unfair to them.
Below are some signs that you should start a conversation with your loved one about their driving:
- Your loved one has a history of accidents/crashes/fender benders.
- They need reminders on how to get to familiar places.
- They make poor decisions in traffic, driving at an inappropriate speed for road conditions.
- They confuse the brake and gas pedals.
- They fail to observe traffic signs.
People with dementia face both cognitive and physical implications as their condition progresses. Overall, their ability to recognize, process, understand, and recall information declines over time. This translates over into driving when they cannot react quickly, remember how to operate their own vehicle, or recall directions. Physically, they may have a decreased range of motion, less balance and neck flexibility, and hearing loss. These combined factors may prevent them from being cautious and competent drivers.
So how do you bring this up? Our advice is to start the conversation early. Understand that there will be multiple conversations about this, and some will go more smoothly than others. Discuss the specific symptoms we mentioned above, matter-of-factly, so it does not come off as a personal attack on their driving abilities. Emphasize that their well-being is the top priority.
Prepare for the possibility that some conversations will not go well. In these situations, as always, do your best to demonstrate understanding and empathy. It can feel belittling, almost degrading, to have your driving privileges stripped from you after decades of being an independent adult.
In the case that your loved one can no longer drive at all, arrange for alternative transportation with family members and friends. Here are some sites that offer these services:
Center for Volunteer Caregiving
AARP Mobility Resources