Can You Still Drive With Dementia?

road with cars

Can You Still Drive With Dementia?

Being diagnosed with dementia can be a difficult time for you and your family. You want to try and keep things the same as normal before it starts to get worse. One of the things that you are probably looking for to keep normal is your ability to drive. Driving with dementia is certainly a complex issue and there aren’t any black and while answers.

While driving may seem like a normal everyday task that is very easy to complete, it actually requires a lot of thought, skills and a fast reaction time. It is important that you do not put the safety of yourself and others around you on the road at risk.

If you have been diagnosed with dementia it doesn’t mean you have to stop driving straight away, but there will be a point where you won’t be able to drive anymore. Not being able to drive provides a big sense of loss of freedom, among other things; so family members should be prepared and come up with a plan to keep the person living with dementia as mobile as possible.

man while driving

After being diagnosed with dementia, you are required by law to inform the relevant licensing authority. Then your doctor must provide information to the licensing authority on their assessment of your ability to drive.

Sometimes even a formal driving assessment may take place so the licensing authority can assure that you aren’t going to put yourself or others at risk. It is deemed you are able to continue driving; you will be given a conditional license, which will have to be reviewed at least once a year.

There are a few warning signs that you and your family need to be on the lookout for that may indicate your dementia is impacting your driving. The issue with the majority of these signs is that it is difficult to spot and can go unnoticed for extended periods of time.

The main signs you should be looking for include:

  • Coordination à if you can see that you are getting the brake and accelerator pedals the wrong way around, or it becomes difficult to make sharp turns, there may be an issue.
  • Vision à if you can’t see or differentiate between objects coming to you straight on or from the side, or you are unable to respond in the appropriate amount of time, there may be an issue.
  • Reaction time à if you can’t make a quick decision like stopping, turning or speeding up the car, there may be an issue.
  • Problem-solving à if you are finding it difficult to react quickly and solve problems on your feet, or getting confused quickly, there may be an issue.
  • Hearing à if you are finding it difficult to properly hear all the sounds on the road, like a car approaching or the sound of sirens and you are unable to respond in the appropriate manner, there may be an issue.

Other important signs that you need to look for include:

  • Starting to get confused on where to go on typically familiar routes (like places around your home).
  • The inability to continue to stay in the current lane, or not using an indicator to change lanes.
  • The inability to tell the difference between left and right.
  • The inability to tell the difference between the colours on traffic lights and the meanings of various road signs.

Sometimes the person living and driving with dementia will notice some or all of these things, but they choose not to bring it up because they don’t want the freedom of driving taken away from them. This is why it is important for family members to step in here and take action if the signs are clear.

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