Driving with Dementia

During the early stages of dementia many symptoms may make driving harder and unwise. Watch the following videos to learn more…

Another topic regarding driving and health that a lot of people need information on is when people start to get into the early stages of dementia.

When dementia develops, a lot of aspects can influence driving. Reaction times slow, memory of where you are and where you’re supposed to be going also start to slow. Short-term memory particularly starts to slow. So you may get in the car.

I’ve had patients tell me how they’ve got in the car and then had no idea where they’re supposed to be going. So that’s a bit of a disaster waiting to brew. Confidence in driving decreases with Dementia patients, so people get in the car and then they become very shaky and uncertain.

In fact, studies have shown that with older people having accidents, about 1 in 3 are later found to have Alzheimer’s, so, it certainly plays a part in driving accidents going on.

On the other hand, people, because of the independence of driving, still cling to the ability to get out there and get in their car and get about. We know from other research that one of the things that stops people driving and really makes them take stop, is when they get as far as having an accident or a near-accident. This means that most people with dementia don’t stop driving until forced to do so, often by an accident and clearly that’s not a great situation.

So, you need to consider, for yourself, or for relatives, if you know that they’re really not quite as sharp as they used to be, that maybe it’s time to start thinking about whether they should be driving or not.

Now, dementia itself isn’t a bar to driving at all in the mild, early stages. But what’s best is to be sure that you are safe and to take a further driving test. You can talk to the DVLA and they will recommend a local center where you can have an update of your test to make sure that you’re still safe to drive.

It’s also important to bear in mind that if you know that you have some degree of dementia, or you know a relative does, that that may invalidate their insurance if the insurance company hasn’t been told. So, just as with other health issues, you just need to accept what those issues are and look at how the rules and regulations change and make sure you’re complying with those.

As dementia advances, then really it is time to start thinking about using public transport, getting relatives to take you places or even, when necessary, taking a taxi. Increasingly, these days you can go shopping online and do a lot of other things online, so get help from your relatives to do so.