Home Health Care News

Helping Families Cope – When to STOP Driving

Driving is a routine part of an adult’s life and a symbol of competence and independence. Taking driving privileges away from a loved one is one of the most difficult decisions you must make as a family caregiver. The loss of driving is one of the most difficult adjustments someone with Alzheimer’s disease may face.

Competent driving requires focused concentration and quick reaction. Alzheimer’s disease alters a driver’s ability to make fast decisions and to execute them while driving. Here’s how Alzheimer’s disease can affect those who drive:

  • Distractions can impair the ability to observe visual cues, such as brake lights on the car ahead or traffic lights and signs.
  • Visual spatial skills decline. These skills help a driver judge distances. When they do decline, driving problems arise.
  • Individuals with Alzheimer’s may get lost easily and become frightened and agitated, which can lead to accidents.

Making the Decision to Stop Driving

As a family caregiver, it is often up to you to decide when you loved one’s diminished reasoning skills make it unsafe for him or her to drive. You may struggle with this dilemma and be reluctant to stop your loved one from driving. You can assess you loved one’s skill level by asking the following questions.

Does you loved one have difficulties:

  • With coordination?
  • Making decisions?
  • Staying alert to changes?
  • Participating in multiple tasks?
  • Judging distances and space?
  • Driving at an appropriate speed?
  • Exhibiting anger and frustration?
  • Recognizing familiar places?

What to do if Giving up Driving Becomes and Issue

When you no longer allow your loved one to drive for safety reasons, you may need to provide support and validation. The person with Alzheimer’s disease has experienced yet another loss. He or she may become angry or resentful and attempt to bargain for driving privileges. Consider these options as you work through the issue of giving up the car keys:

  • Out of sight, out of mind. Find a place to park the car away from the home.
  • Keep the car keys in a hidden place, never in sight of you loved one or easily available in a purse or on a counter.
  • Sell the familiar car and replace it with a different car and color. It may not be recognized by your loved one, and he or she may think it belongs to the neighbors.
  • Have a mechanic install a kill switch that disables the car, but can be engaged when necessary.
  • Ask you loved one’s physician to write a restricted driving order on a prescription pad and present it as an official document. This relieves you from taking driving privileges away. Be sure to arrange this with the physician before the appointment.

Stand Firm and Be Patient

Arguing and trying to reason with explanations do not make it easier for an older adult with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia to accept this loss of independence. Engage other family members or friends to offer transportation during this transition to downplay the loss of driving. Encourage your family to focus on activities you still enjoy together.

Home Instead Senior Care is an in-home health care provider located in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina serving individuals and families in the Myrtle Beach and Grand Strand area for over 11 years! We offer assistance to those in need for companionship, home help, personal care, short-term recovery, Alzheimer’s care, Respite care and many other services to make your life easier.

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p) 843. 357. 9777
f) 843. 357. 9779
11746 Hwy 17 Bypass, Suite B
Murrells Inlet, SC 29576