Jan 10, 2010

Didn't stop "because I just like to drive" -- Subscribers Get Rich?

I can see the headline now, loyal readers of Alzheimer's Reading Room get rich on knucklehead idea.....
By Bob DeMarco

VICTORIAN police helped an elderly man find his way home after an epic nine-hour road trip that took him more than 600km off course and far into the wrong state.

Alzheimer's Reading Room

The 80-year-old identified as Eric, from Pambula, near Merimbula on the NSW south coast, set off from a friend's house at Yass, on the Hume Highway southwest of Sydney, about 7.15am on Monday for the 613km trip home.
630 Kilometers equals approximately 391 miles.

As I read this story I found myself asking the same question, why does someone suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia keep on driving?

They are obviously lost. I wonder are they hoping to see some landmark that will help them get back home? What are they thinking? Are they thinking? If they are not thinking, how did they manage to get so far from home while driving a car? Alzheimer's, mystifying.

In this case the man had a cell phone. The trip finally ended when he handed the cell phone to a policeman. The man's frantic wife was on the other end of the conversation.

I often try and think of a solution to this problem.

Most comments on the issue wonder why a person with dementia is driving in the first place? I've learned over the years that there are people all over the world suffering from dementia still driving a car. They get lost. Usually they run out of gas. If they know how to buy gas, uh oh.

Think about it. People with dementia are driving back and forth to the grocery store or to see friends so why worry?

I can tell you right now my mother was driving safely, to the grocery store, bingo, the doctor without a problem -- long after she should not have been driving.

I can easily envision my mother in her car lost far from home. Meanwhile, when the call came in I was about 1250 miles away -- yikes.

I use to go to Palm Beach Gardens quite often with my mother in the car. Palm Beach Gardens is about 30 miles from Delray Beach. My mother would tell people on the telephone -- its really nice in Tampa, we should move there. It is about 250 miles from Delray to Tampa. Uh oh.

While the simple solution to this problem is to take the keys to the car away, I know from reading that this is isn't happening and isn't going to happen.

It is interesting that most of these lost driver stories are about men. More women suffer from Alzheimer's then men. Men don't ask for directions. Well we already know that is the case.

One solution that comes to mind is a limit-o-meter. This would limit a car from going more than ten miles before it would turn itself off. Good idea huh? Well, it might not work effectively if the car is going 60 miles an hour and comes to a dead stop.

Ok, limit-o-meter that stops the car dead in its tracks after ten miles, and as soon as it comes to its next stop.

I understand this solution would be expensive. Maybe not so expensive in newer cars that already have a computer. Might take about ten years or so before this solutions gets in place.

Another simple solution would be to limit a car gas tank to three gallons of gas at a time. Now you might think, if they did that the person would be getting stuck on the side of the road all the time. Good point. On the other hand, you get stuck a couple times, mandatory memory test.

Which brings me to my next potential solution.

How about when you turn 80 they require you to take a mandatory memory test before you can get your licensed renewed. In fact, lets make this even better. How about when you turn 80 they make you take an eye test, driving test, and memory test. Now I know many people won't like this solution. On the other hand, if it is going to save lives, or get people off the road that shouldn't be driving, maybe it is not such a bad idea. Your opinion?

Back to the solution. If you fail the memory part of the driving test you then have to go to a registered memory testing facility and get a certificate before you can get the drivers license. If you do poorly on the test the testing center might be required to notify your personal care physician -- like this part?

I like this memory testing idea.

Why? Because I would start a business around this idea, and I am going to let every subscriber to the Alzheimer's Reading Room invest. If the business gets big enough it might go public some day -- bonanza.

I can see the headline now, loyal readers of Alzheimer's Reading Room get rich on knucklehead idea. Or was it bunkhouse logic?

I suppose all the people that stop in here to read but don't subscribe might be a bit bummed out. No stock in the start up for them.

When they asked Eric, the man who was lost and 630 kilometers from home, why he hadn't stopped earlier he said, "I just like to drive."

The police officers said they laughed when he answered. So did I.

I am now wondering? Did they take his license away? Bet they didn't.

Tip of the hat to Louise in Australia who sent me the link to article -- Wrong turn sends elderly man 600km off course into Victoria.

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Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The ARR knowledge base contains more than 3,811 articles with more than 306,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, Alzheimer's Reading Room