Taking away the keys to a car or a driver's license to someone with the early stages of dementia may seem abrupt, extreme, disrespectful or punitive. Read these tips to start that conversation with your loved one.
Today there are an estimated 5 million people in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with some form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease being the most common form. If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia, you’ll struggle with a number of challenges as a caregiver – medical, legal, financial, and daily care. You will also no doubt have to decide when that person should no longer drive. Most information about patients with dementia warns against driving. Even in the early stages of dementia or mild cognitive impairment, one or more functions of the brain can be affected, which can pose a risk when driving. Reaction time can be slowed. We worry about not only mechanical confusion, but the possibility of getting lost. Hearing, vision, and depth perception are also factors. As a caregiver, you may know that the best decision would be for your loved one to stop driving, but how do you even begin to have that conversation? And how do you convince mom or dad to stop driving when they don’t see or understand the problem. It’s not unusual for a parent to say something like, “I’ve been driving longer than you’ve been alive. I do just fine.” Anger or frustration may result on both sides from these conversations, but often there is no immediate resolution. This is a conversation that neither party wants to have, and there really are no winners. When faced with this situations, families need to consider these key points:
Assessing Driving Abilities
Open Lines of Communication
Providing Compassion and Support
Knowing When It's Time to Discontinue Driving
To learn more about these topics, and what the warning signs are for drivers with dementia, download A Difficult Conversation - Driving with Dementia.
Take the time to discuss and prepare for this event with your loved one, and if necessary, enlist help from your physician or other healthcare professionals.
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As caregiver, your job of keeping your loved one safe, happy, and healthy is a stressful one. But just like the flight attendants tell us in their demonstrations, you need to take care of yourself first before you can provide assistance to others. Easier said than done, you say? Here are a few tips to help you take care of YOU.