Driving and dementia: Take away the keys?

Caring for a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease presents a range of challenges. Spouses, family members, and friends must deal with feelings of loss as the person they know seems to slip away. Supporting a loved one with basic activities of daily living can be time consuming and exhausting. And it is difficult to balance protecting the person you’re caring for and preserving what independence remains.

One of the trickiest problems for caregivers to negotiate with people with dementia is driving. The consequences of a misstep behind the wheel can be deadly.

Decisions about driving

Whether or not it is safe to drive can be complicated, particularly when the person is only mildly impaired. Some believe that driving privileges should not be taken away until a person is clearly an unsafe driver.

But can you identify an unsafe driver before an accident occurs?

Driving requires amazing coordination — the eyes, brain, and muscles must process information and respond to it quickly. Driving skills may seem sufficient until an unexpected situation occurs when a person with dementia can panic or freeze with indecision.

One way to gauge the risk is to observe the person’s general behavior. If friends and family see their loved one exhibit poor judgment, inattentiveness to what’s going on around him or her, clumsiness, and slow or inappropriate reactions, then that person should not get behind the wheel.

Taking away the keys

Ideally, a tactful and respectful approach will preserve the person’s self-esteem while getting them off the road. Some people may agree to stop driving for other reasons — for instance, the car needs repair or the license or registration has expired. You can also opt for a road test with a driver’s rehabilitation specialist, who can offer an independent assessment of safety. People with Alzheimer’s disease sometimes take seriously a written prescription from a physician that says, “Do not drive.”

In some states, doctors have a legal duty to report unsafe drivers and drivers with certain medical problems to the state department of motor vehicles. If all else fails, you may need to seek advice from a lawyer or an official with the Department of Public Safety in your state. Procedures vary, but generally a driver’s license can be suspended on the basis of a physician’s written statement.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.

Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.

2 Corinthians 10:15-16 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;

2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Ephesians 1:17-18 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 3:16-19 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, read more

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