Saturday, February 9, 2013

Driving with Alzheimer's Can Mean Death


When someone is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's should their drivers license be revoked?

+Alzheimer's Reading Room

If someone is suffering from Alzheimer's and driving, are they a risk to the general public (other drivers)?

If someone suffering from Alzheimer's causes a fatality while driving should they be exempt from civil lawsuits? Or should they be treated the same way as someone driving under the influence of alcohol?

Should the doctor or family of a person diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease be held legally liable if the person causes a fatality while driving?


Driving with Alzheimer's Can Mean Death
Linda Hunt
A study conducted by Linda Hunt at the School of Occupational Therapy at Pacific University, Oregon indicates that driving when suffering from Alzheimer's can be dangerous.
Of 207 drivers with Alzheimer's who went missing while driving, 32 died and 35 were found injured, the research showed. Another 70 were not found at the time the data was analyzed.

The first thing I thought to myself was, yikes.

The math, 207 cases, 32 died. 15.4 percent. Almost 6.5 out of 100. Six and one half persons. Is it possible that 15 percent of the persons suffering from Alzheimer's disease who go missing while driving end up dead?

The math, 207 cases, 32 died, 35 injured. 32 percent. Not good.

Hunt based her study on those incidents she found reported in the media. So the study does not test the percentage of all persons suffering from Alzheimer's that drive. Only those that were driving and were reported missing.

I decided to too look at some driving statistics. For 2007, there were 20.06 driving fatalities for every 100,000 licensed drivers. .02 percent. .0002.

Here is what Hunt said about the study,
"Alzheimer's disease affects memory and navigational skills. These impairments may lead to getting lost, which is a life-threatening problem," Hunt said. "Family members and friends of individuals with dementia need to recognize these impairments as serious threats to safety for anyone who has dementia."

Here is what Elizabeth Gould, director of quality care programs at the Alzheimer's Association's national office in Chicago, said,
"Our position is that a diagnosis alone is not sufficient to have someone's driving privileges taken away because many people in the early stages can still drive safely," said Gould. "It (driving) needs to be monitored."
From the FAU Driving Study,
"Roughly 60 to 65 percent of the individuals who come in for driving evaluations pass our driving assessment," Owens said. "By the time they come to us, they usually have some form of dementia. Within two years of a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, individuals are generally unable to drive."
Only six states -- Oregon, California, Nevada, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey -- have mandatory reporting laws when a doctor finds a patient is mentally impaired.

So I found myself thinking. It's likely that most of those people driving under the influence of Alzheimer's and then killed in a car while missing were probably doing OK until they finally got lost.

How would one go about monitoring someone suffering from Alzheimer's? If we knew what to look for, it wouldn't be so hard to stop wandering of all types.

So here are the questions for readers.

When someone is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's should their license be revoked?

If someone is suffering from Alzheimer's and driving, are they a risk to the general public (other drivers)?

If someone suffering from Alzheimer's causes a fatality while driving should they be exempt from civil lawsuits? Or should they be treated the same way as someone driving under the influence of alcohol?

Should the doctor or family of a person diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease be held legally liable if the person causes a fatality while driving?

Are you related to someone that has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and is still driving?

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Original content +Bob DeMarco , the Alzheimer's Reading Room