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Driving with dementia: A delicate problem that’s not without solutions


There are often no easy answers to difficult questions. Driving and dementia poses one of those questions. The truth is that as Alzheimer’s disease or other similar chronic memory diseases progress, challenges mount. Many of these issues are especially difficult because they directly impact one’s independence; something that is so precious. 

In working through paths forward, discuss the topic with love and empathy but also with the ultimate need to keep safety and responsibility in the forefront. Involve your physician and give them an important role in the conversation. Keep in mind that multiple conversations may be necessary. Each individual will respond differently. It is easier to begin conversations about transitions earlier rather than later. 

Also, link with a support group. Support groups can provide an emotional shoulder for the individual and caregiver alike. In addition, connecting with others who are experiencing similar situations can be a source of valuable information and practical resources.

Answering the inevitable question of when it is no longer appropriate for someone to be behind the wheel requires careful consideration. Changes in reaction time, spatial perception and judgment are all significant and important factors. Offer solutions and alternatives that will allow for routines to continue without driving. Many individuals have difficulty asking for help because they do not want to be a burden. 

Suggest a supermarket trip and invite them to join you. Plan small field trips that could be as simple as a walk in the park, or to a market. Suggest things which you know are a part of their valued routine. Alternatively, make arrangements to have essentials delivered or arrange a ride service if caregivers are not always available.

Ultimately, safety must be the deciding factor with driving. If resistance is insurmountable then more drastic measures need to be followed like removing the car keys
or even the vehicle. Keep in mind that mood changes and elevated reactions are a part of the disease so do not blame yourself.

For more information on this topic, please visit www.pratico-lab.com

Dr. Domenico Praticò is the director of the Alzheimer’s Center at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Philadelphia.

Dr. Domenico Pratico

Dr. Domenico Pratico is the director of the Alzheimer’s Center at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Philadelphia.

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