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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Driving and Dementia, Part 1.

The August issue of Wiser Now Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Tips covers Part 1 of the topic of driving and dementia. (What makes people with Alzheimer’s disease unsafe drivers?) As we age, our reaction time slows, our ability to refocus our eyes quickly between close and distant objects diminishes, and we often experience other physical changes that can affect our driving skills.

When people have dementia, they develop a whole new group of much more serious problems that cause them to make mistakes such as these:
•Getting lost going to familiar places
•Stopping in traffic for no apparent reason
•Failure to stop at a stop sign or red light
•Confusing the gas and brake pedals
•Driving at inappropriate speeds (often too slow)
•Moving into the wrong lane and difficulty maintaining lane position
•Easily flustered and distracted while driving
•Poor judgment when making left hand turns
•Hitting curbs

Often their vision is adequate to pass the mandatory vision exam when they are retested, but that short test fails to distinguish the difference between vision and perception. A person with dementia, for example, may see a caution sign but not be able to interpret its meaning, or may see a car approaching as he makes a left hand turn, but not be able to judge its distance and speed.

What is perhaps most dangerous of all is that they lack insight into their difficulties and frequently defend their abilities by saying, “I just have to be careful.”

The deficits are real, but the solutions are complex and often lacking. For example, a person who can no longer drive safely often can no longer manage public transportation safely either, and that’s assuming there is even public transportation available.

Read more about this issue by signing up for Wiser Now Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Tips and adding your comments to the debate.

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