Alzheimer's: When to Take the Keys Away

The Mayo Clinic has provided advice on how to talk to an aging parent with Alzheimer’s about driving and when to stop them.

Aside from memory loss, Alzheimer’s can decrease reaction time and concentration, which makes driving extremely dangerous for seniors. Alzheimer’s patients may even have trouble judging distances and their diminished short-term memory makes them much more likely to get lost while driving. A driver with Alzheimer's may also have trouble prioritizing visual cues and may get distracted by an irrelevant visual stimulus while ignoring an important cue such as traffic signs.

Some of the warning signs include difficulty navigating, confusing the brake and gas pedals, failing to observe traffic signals, hitting the curb consistently, driving at an inappropriate speed, and emotional volatility while driving.

Talking to a parent with Alzheimer’s about ending their driving can be a very difficult conversation. Driving represents independence for many people and giving that up can mean the end of an era for them. Some important signs that a parent may need to stop driving are if they have difficulty navigating familiar places, or if they are continuously hitting curves and curbs while driving. If you don’t feel safe driving with them, they probably should not longer be driving. To make the transition easier for a parent, try to provide alternate transportation, or limit their need to drive by enlisting a grocery delivery system.

Sometimes, it may be difficult to get your loved one to stop driving and precautions may need to be taken like having a doctor talk to the senior. Keeping the keys or even the car out of the senior’s sight may also make this transition easier. In the end, it is most important to be patient and understanding during this hard phase of their lives and to focus on making the transition as smooth and dignified as possible.

Source: The Mayo Clinic, Home Care Blog

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