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Driving After an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis: A Necessary Discussion with Your Senior Loved One

By January 10, 2014Dementia

After your senior loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you will likely have a lot of questions about the future. Will she begin to lose cognitive abilities immediately? Will you need to worry about a nursing home in the near future? How will you be able to provide in-home care and still hold down a job? These are just a small sampling of some common questions family members and friends have post-diagnosis.

While most of those questions stem from issues that your senior loved one will not face in the immediate future, driving is quite another issue. If a senior is used to living independently and driving on a daily basis, the potential loss of this freedom can be extremely upsetting. That’s why it’s so important to dive into a discussion sooner than later.

The Dreaded Driving Discussion

When facing the loss of driving privileges, it’s important that you think about your senior loved one’s feelings. You also must think about her safety and the safety of other motorists and pedestrians. Before jumping into the conversation with your loved one, it’s essential to formulate a plan and decide what you want to communicate.

As you begin speaking with a senior, you should:

  • Express your concerns about her driving
  • Offer her some transportation alternatives, such as carpooling or public transportation
  • Explain the safety concerns you hold
  • Ask your senior’s physician to weigh in on the issue, perhaps even requesting the doctor write a directive that states she cannot drive due to a medical diagnosis
  • Bring in a neutral party to help mediate the conversation
  • Be prepared to have this conversation multiple times

Stick to the Plan

If you’re lucky, the conversation will go perfectly and your loved one will agree to stop driving alone. However, most seniors are not willing to let go of their independence without a fight, so this may be difficult.

If the conversation turns volatile or your loved one bursts out in anger, remember that memory and insight loss plays a huge role in Alzheimer’s disease and likely drive a lot of the hostility toward you. Don’t take it personally and resolve to have the conversation again in a couple days.

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  • Amy says:

    Great advice! To that, I would add that you must remember that rational thought is compromised in patients with Alz’s disease. The reasons might be quite obvious to you as the caregiver, but they will not be to your loved one. And, as mentioned above, their fear of losing their independence will also play a big role in their resistance.

    I would also suggest looking for options through the Secretary of State or DMV in your state. It is sometimes possible to report the driver as unsafe in an anonymous fashion which then allows you to stay out of it and makes the state the bad buy. In addition, some areas may have a virtual driving simulator. My mother in law was given a prescription by her doctor to take the test, which she failed. While her license was not officially revoked, we were told that if she were to drive knowing that she had failed the test and got into an accident, the insurance company would likely not pay the claim.

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LivHOME

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