AlzU Blog

Driving with Alzheimer’s-How do you Know When It’s Safe?

One important decision you may have to make as a caregiver is whether or not your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is safe to drive a car or not.  These issues should be dealt with in a sensitive manner, taking time to evaluate the evidence to ensure whether or not your loved one is, in fact safe to drive. 

Expect that when you tell your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is told he/she is no longer safe to drive, it may be very difficult to accept.  Driving is directly related to one’s independence and depending on your loved one’s level of denial or acceptance of his/her disease process, it may be a very tough pill to swallow as they say. Keep in mind that his/her safety is the highest priority.

Many states have restrictions on driving after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is made.  Drivers with AD may be allowed to continue driving in some states, (such as California) after an in-depth written and driving test is passed.  Once an individual is in the mid to late stages of AD, he/she will probably not be allowed to continue driving legally.  In many states physicians are required to file a statement with the Department of Motor Vehicles after a new diagnosis of AD so that the DMV can be informed and enforce laws regarding individuals with AD being able to legally drive a vehicle.

Once the decision has been made that a driver with AD is no longer capable of safely driving, be consistent with the decision. Avoid going back and forth with your decision allowing him/her to drive on good days and prohibiting it when symptoms are more severe.

If your loved one is resistant to your decision, enlist the help of his/her physician.  Many people view their Doctor as an authority and will respect his/her opinions.  The physician can also contact the DMV and a revocation of driving privileges can be issues directly by the state office as a last resort-this plan of action should be used only when all else fails.

Another strategy may be to simply take the keys or move the vehicle if necessary.  Doing whatever necessary to ensure the safety of your loved one (and others on the road) is of the utmost importance.  Be sure to offer alternative options for transportation to your loved one, such as getting rides from friends or family and/or other modes of transportation offered in your community for seniors.

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