Having a license and the keys to your own car can give you a great deal of freedom. But, if you’re dealing with a family member who has Alzheimer’s and driving, it can be a scary prospect. Will this be the one time they don’t come home? What if they forget how the aspects of the car work?
What if they forget where home is?
A Driver’s License – The Key To Independence
The debate has been raging whether to test seniors for their ability to drive for decades. The matter gets complicated because you’re dealing with a loss of freedom. For many of the seniors, being able to take themselves to a doctor’s appointment is critical.
Can you imagine the heartache that comes if you knew your reactions were getting a little bit slower, your eyes were getting a little bit more sensitive, but you still had to get to your doctor’s appointments…
What would losing your license do to you?
Who would you call to take you to your appointments? How do you get over the guilt of taking away your loved one’s free time so that you could have enjoyable activities? Would your friends stop by to see you? Would the members of the different groups you belong to?
For many people, losing a license is akin to a prison sentence, and that prison is the home.
Distracted Driving Makes Alzheimer’s Dangerous
The fact of the matter is that if you’re loved one is experiencing Alzheimer’s, there is a very high chance they could hurt themselves or someone else if they fail to recognize when it’s too dangerous to drive.
There are certain signs that a person is losing their ability to drive safely. A few of them cross several different health issues.
Long Trips For No Reason (Getting lost)
Specific trips take a certain amount of time, and we know typically how long they should take, even if there is traffic. That trip to the grocery store may only take 20 minutes regularly, but if it suddenly takes 40 minutes, that can be a severe issue.
Forgetting where you were going as a common sign of dementia and Alzheimer’s. What makes driving so dangerous is the prospect of getting lost. If you don’t know how to get back to where you’re supposed to be, it can be frightening. And, when you are scared and even panicking, it’s easy to make bad decisions.
Confusion switches or pedals
One of the most common mistakes made by the elderly with Alzheimer’s and driving is confusing the gas and the brake causing accidents. This happens more often in people with dementia. They may have forgotten which is which or even forgot to move their leg to switch to the other pedal.
We’d like you to imagine us: you’re coming up to a red light with a car already stopped in front of you. And just that single moment, your brain forgets how to move your leg to the brake, so you depress the pedal your closest to… and that pedal is the gas.
That single moment for dementia strikes can give the horrible result of an accident.
Forgetting Where You Are On The Road, Missing Miles
Most people have the experience starting along somewhere and are surprised all of a sudden to realize where they are. Their mind has wandered, and when they start paying attention again, miles have passed.
The difference between simple daydreaming and dementia is that a person realizes they were daydreaming, but enough of their attention was on the road. A person with dementia loses that time and may have lost control of their vehicle.
Take The Time To Talk About Alzheimer’s and Driving
If you notice your loved ones having trouble remembering things, stuttering over words, or confusing things, it’s time to talk about dementia. And, if your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, it’s better to talk about their driving habits before it becomes an issue.
You may need to have more check-ins with your loved one, knowing when they are going to the store, their activities, or the doctor. That way, you can make sure they arrive safely at their destination and home. It also lets you monitor the time, so if they get lost, it becomes obvious.
You’ll also need to start planning for when your loved ones cannot drive anymore at all. When will it become too much that you need to take the license? What will happen to them? Are you able to take them to their appointments and activities?
These things are all the things you need to decide beforehand.
The key to your loved ones being able to do their own thing may lie in their license. But, you have to decide when that independence presents too much of a danger. Alzheimer’s and driving is a tricky situation that has no easy answer.
The one thing that may help delay the inevitable is making sure your loved ones get enough sleep. We have a great article on sleep (link to article) and what it does for you the body that can help give you help with a loved one and may even give you better peace of mind.