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When Should a Person with Dementia Stop Driving?

January 18, 2024

The ability to drive is significant, offering independence and freedom. But what happens when dementia begins to cloud the mind of someone we love?

As we spend time with aging loved ones, we might observe subtle shifts in their cognitive function. This decline can change many things, including their ability to drive safely. The question is hard to address but is essential for the safety of all: When should a person with dementia stop driving?

Let's discuss the warning signs of unsafe driving, learn how to stop someone with dementia from driving, and explore how home care services support the continuity of independence even after removing the car keys.

Warning Signs to Stop Driving

When working with our loved ones on their driving abilities, knowing the signs is important. Warning signs that can raise concern include:

  • Unexplained dents in the car
  • Frequent close calls
  • Changes in vision, hearing, and movement
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Having trouble judging gaps in traffic
  • Getting more frequent tickets and violations
  • Slower response times
  • Making errors in basic traffic rules
  • Increased agitation or confusion while driving
  • Confusing the brake and gas pedals

The National Institute on Aging adds that a person can also be asked to take a driving test to evaluate their skills. 

NIA explains: 

"Many states require retaking a driving test when there is reason to believe someone may be unable to safely operate their vehicle. Information on unsafe driving can come from law enforcement, medical personnel, concerned citizens, and family members. Check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles for more information."

Talking to a Loved One About Their Driving

So, how do we broach the topic? It's crucial to balance respect and safety.

  • Start the conversation early and engage them in decision-making.
  • Point out specific concerns and suggest a joint ride where you can observe their skills without judgment.
  • Consider involving the loved one's doctor, who can provide objective medical advice about the impact of dementia on driving capacity.

Keep in mind that this can also be a gradual transition. You may ask your loved one to let someone else drive long distances or at night, but they can continue to drive short distances during the day. 

Over time, this can also be reduced. 

What Happens Once They Can't Drive?

But what's next after the keys are set aside? For many, the thought of losing independence is daunting. Here's where home care services can step in to restore balance and independence. 

Personal Care Assistant (PCA) can assist with:

  • Transportation
  • Errands
  • Appointments

This can ensure that your loved one's needs are met and they feel autonomous within their community. Support groups and resources are also valuable, offering comfort and actionable advice during this transition.

Understanding when and how to stop someone with dementia from driving is crucial. It's about ensuring the physical safety of our loved ones and others on the roads and preserving their dignity and independence as much as possible.

Stay Connected to Best Care

At Best Care, we understand that the road of caregiving can be demanding. It's filled with sharp turns and unexpected bumps. We strive to be there for families—to guide, support, and help navigate these challenging times. If you face difficult questions, remember that we are here to help with all your questions related to family caregiving.

Female older woman driving car in neighborhood.
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