Alzheimer’s and Driving: When to Take Away the Keys
Driving a car means more than just being able to get from point A to point B. Driving is often symbolic of our independence and freedom. Family caregivers are left with the challenge of deciding whether or not to let their aging loved ones drive because of a degenerative neurological disease. Diseases like Alzheimer’s will eventually impair individuals’ ability to drive safely, but it is not always clear when it is the “right” time to tell them to stop. Family caregivers eventually have to make the difficult decision to take away the keys, but the obvious question to ask is “When?”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s are able to drive just like people who do not have the disease for about two years. But once the disease progresses, the likelihood of an accident occurring is a lot higher. The most effective way to determine whether or not your loved one is fit to drive is to meet with an occupational therapist who is able to test their current driving ability. However, there are also some signs and indicators to look out for to let you know that it might be time for an evaluation.
Your loved one is at risk for an accident, if you notice any of the following:
- They are running red lights or stop signs
- They are getting into minor accidents like fender benders
- You find small dents on their car
- They begin feeling as if they are unsure about their driving abilities
- Their neighbors or other people express concerns about their ability to drive
Approaching Your Loved One
Now, the next challenge is talking to your loved one about giving up the keys. This conversation can be very difficult since, as mentioned above, driving often represents independence and freedom. So, taking away the privilege of driving can often seem like taking away someone’s independence. At first, your loved one may be resistant and deny that an actual problem exists. The key to approaching such a subject is to be empathetic to your loved one’s feelings. Acknowledge why they are upset and respect how they feel. Next, you should offer some suggestions for other transportation resources, like public transportation. You can even contact your local Area Agency on Aging to see what they can suggest.
If your loved one does not agree with you, then perhaps there are more drastic measures you can take. For instance, you could hide the car keys, move to the car to another location, or disconnect the battery. This may seem like a hard thing to do, but you have to remember that you are trying to avoid potentially catastrophic costs—your loved could seriously hurt themselves and other people. The conversation will not be easy for everybody, but it is a necessary step to take.
If you have any more questions, please call ElderCare at Home at 888-285-0093 or visit our website!
 Source: https://www.alz.org/georgia/in_my_community_16195.asp
 Source: Ibid.
 Source: https://www.alzheimers.net/2014-03-17/driving-and-alzheimers/
 Source: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/driving-safety-and-alzheimers-disease