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Older Driver Safety and Dementia

Posted by on 9/28/2012


Occupational therapists are involved in completing assessments to help determine the ability of a person with Alzheimer's/dementia, stroke, or other physical impairment, to drive. It does not always necessarily mean the person will no longer be able to drive; some older drivers can continue to drive (for awhile anyway), if they only stick to certain, familiar routes, daytime only, only side streets, etc. or have vehicle adaptations, if needed. That being said, I speak to my client's about retiring from driving - it is a step that each of us will have to do sometime. Thinking ahead about alternative transportation options before driving retirement, can help it go smoother when that day comes. And, involving a professional, such as a physician or OT to be the "bad guy" when the time comes to give up the keys, can help minimize anger or resentment toward the caregiver.

Signs that might indicate the person is having difficulty with driving include:
  • Dents in the bumpers or scrapes on side, indicating having hit things while driving
  • Uncertainty when driving, going either too slow or too fast
  • Difficulty orienting the vehicle to align it correctly into parking spots
  • Getting lost on familiar routes
Learn more about how you can approach this sensitive topic with a person with dementia in this tip sheet regarding Older Driver Safety, geared especially for those with memory loss.
Photo from the American Occupational Therapy Association.

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