Aging & Changing: How Alzheimer's or Dementia Impacts Driving
University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center to host lunch & learn event discussing the impact of age, cognitive function on driving for seniors
One common symptom of Alzheimer’s or dementia is forgetfulness. Adults in the early stages of dementia may feel a sort of fogginess when it comes to remembering the names of acquaintances, places they occasionally visit, or familiar song lyrics. As dementia progresses, seniors may not be able to recognize loved ones or have trouble remembering how to do simple tasks, such as making meals or tying their shoes. This progression typically happens over a period of time and with it, new challenges arise for seniors with dementia and their caretakers.
As your loved one’s Alzheimer’s or dementia progresses, there will be certain things they can no longer do safely on their own. This loss of independence can be devastating for many seniors, especially if they are otherwise healthy. If your mom or dad was always very headstrong, independent, and free-spirited in their younger years, it’s likely those attitudes will continue as they age as well. For many adult children, it is hard to restrict their parents’ freedoms after a lifetime of autonomy. One thing to keep in mind is that ensuring your parent’s safety and well-being is your number one priority as their dementia progresses – even if that means they can no longer drive.
Driving Safety for Adults with Alzheimer’s or Dementia
Even for the most aware drivers, being behind the wheel of a car can be dangerous. Between distracted drivers who are on their phones to busy residential areas and high-speed freeways, driving demands the operator’s full attention. Driving requires a quick reaction time and fast decision making – because of this, seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia will eventually become unable to drive. Learning how to approach the subject, support your senior loved one, and find reliable alternative transportation can help ease the transition.
Being able to identify the signs of unsafe driving will help you bring up the conversation about driving before an accident occurs. Here are a few warning signs that it’s time to stop driving:
- Forgetting how to locate familiar places
- Failure to observe and follow traffic signs
- Slow or poor decision-making in traffic
- Poor lane control, including swerving, hitting the curb, and errors at intersections
- Confusing the gas and brake pedals
As you and your family begin to observe these unsafe driving behaviors, take the proactive step of starting the conversation with your loved one. As we know, losing the independence driving provides can be upsetting. Be prepared for your loved one to be angry or defensive. It’s important to acknowledge your loved one’s feelings and demonstrate empathy. Express your own concerns for their safety and reaffirm your love and support. You may find it helpful to consider a doctor’s evaluation or other third-party that your parent sees as an authority figure. Your senior mom or dad may not listen to your orders, but the directions of a doctor, therapist, or trusted friend may do the trick.
Making a plan for future transportation can help ease the transition for your senior loved one and allow them to envision independence without driving. Plan with siblings and other family members to slowly transition driving responsibilities onto others. Taxi services and special transportation services for older adults can be scheduled in advance for medical appointments, outings, events, and more. Reducing the need to drive by having prescriptions, groceries, or meals delivered.
As your senior loved one’s Alzheimer’s or dementia progresses, their needs will inevitably advance beyond transportation. As they require more daily assistance, with personal hygiene, meal preparation, toileting and incontinence care, medication reminders, and specialized memory care, your family may want to consider residential memory care facilities. ComfortCare Homes in Wichita, KS, offers memory care in a residential setting that allows seniors to receive the personalized daily help they need in a community trained to provide compassionate assistance.
Learn More About Aging & Changing
The University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center (KU ADC) is hosting a Lunch & Learn event on May 11, 2018, that will focus on the impact of age has on driving. The KU ADC hosts Alzheimer’s-specific events on the 2nd Friday of each month. Topics vary and lunch is provided for those in attendance. The KU ADC supports education for Central Kansas area on dementia care and treatment, dementia research, caregiving, and dementia risk reduction through lifestyle modification. If you would like to learn more about senior driving, especially the impact of Alzheimer’s or dementia, sign up for this event today! For complete information, visit the KU ADC website here.
For more information about memory care services provided by ComfortCare Homes, please call our office at (316) 444-0532.