Getting a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease to stop driving is one of the most difficult tasks you will ever have to accomplish.
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By Marie Marley
Alzheimer's Reading Room
ACCIDENT - an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance; an unexpected happening causing loss or injury for which legal relief may be sought.
A person living with dementia will usually strenuously object for many reasons, but primarily because it means giving up a great deal of their independence.
Two primary questions are involved: When should the person stop driving? How do you get them to stop?
5 Clear Signs that the Person Should Stop Driving
Although there are many signs that a person should stop driving, the Alzheimer’s Association lists five primary ones:
1. Forgetting how to locate familiar places
2. Failing to observe traffic signs
3. Making slow or poor decisions in traffic
4. Driving at an inappropriate speed
5. Becoming angry of confused while driving
Experts agree that the general rule of thumb is that if you don’t feel safe in the car when the person is driving or if you wouldn’t feel safe having your children or other loved ones in the car with them, then it’s time to take action to get the person off the road.
But how do you do that?
8 Tips for Getting the Person to Stop Driving
A lot depends on how alert the person is. Techniques that work for someone in the mid to late stages of the disease may not work for one who is only experiencing mild memory loss and confusion.
Here are 8 approaches to try:
1. Try to calmly convince the patient to stop driving of his/her own free will.
2. Have their primary care provider or attorney talk to them. If they respect that person enough they may voluntarily agree to stop driving.
3. Have another family member or friend they respect talk to them. Sometimes people will pay more attention to someone other than the primary caregiver.
4. Take away the car keys. (This may not work for early-stage people because they might figure out how to get replacement keys made.)
5. Mechanically disable the car. (Again, may not work for those in the early stages because they may call a mechanic to solve the problem.)
6. Park the car around the corner or elsewhere out of their site. If their dementia is advanced enough they may forget they even own a car.
7. Report them to the state Department (or Bureau) of Motor Vehicles, which in most states will make them take a driving test. If they fail, their license will be revoked. Note: Some states require physicians to report all diagnoses of dementia to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
8. As a last resort, you can sell the car if there are no other family members who need to use it.
When they stop driving you will, of course, need to arrange transportation for them. You can do this through a combination of driving them yourself, arranging for others to drive them, and having them use taxis, buses, senior transportation services, delivery services, etc.
Getting your loved one with Alzheimer’s to stop driving will not be a simple task, but remember – it’s your responsibility to get him or her out from behind the wheel before someone gets hurt.
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Marie Marley is the award-winning author of the uplifting book, Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy. Her website (ComeBackEarlyToday.com) contains a wealth of information for Alzheimer’s caregivers.
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