Driving is a complex task requiring concentration, attention and orientation, and at some point, driving will be a problem for the person with dementia. It can be upsetting for someone to lose a possibility to drive. Many caregivers, on the other hand experience a lot of stress related to this issue. As dementia tends to progress gradually, it can be difficult to determine an exact point when driving gets to hazardous. However, maintaining independence and mobility is important for all of us. You should continuously observe behavioral signs that can be a predictor of not having the necessary skills to continue driving: coordination skills, judgement of distance and space, multiple task engagement, information processing skills, decision-making skills and problem solving skills. In addition, it can be useful to accompany the person in the car, and make a judgement for yourself. Everyone can have a moment’s lack of attention, or make the occasional bad decision in traffic. With dementia, however, it is likely that this will become a more and more regular feature of driving.

Talk to the person about your concerns.

Keep in mind that this might be the first of many conversations about the topic. Talk to the person about your concern for their safety.  If necessary, remind them of the risks to other people as well.

Reaffirm your love and support.

Losing the ability to drive might trigger emotions attached to a loss of independence. It can be particularly difficult if driving was linked to their working life, and hence also a part of their self-image. Acknowledge that it must be difficult to give up driving.

Try to use subtle means to reduce temptation to drive.

Some people with dementia may forget that they should not drive, or insist on driving. Even though it is important to maintain respect for the person with dementia, you have to place safety for them and others first. If you can keep the car out of sight or store car keys in places they cannot see them, the person might not be as tempted to drive.

Encourage them to limit the driving.

If the person still can drive, it might be useful to gradually modify the driving to reduce the risk of accidents, and make the transition from driver to passenger easier later. Encourage them to only drive in familiar places, have short trips, and avoid heavy traffic, driving at night and in bad weather.

Work out an alternative plan.

Driving is not the only way to travel. Discuss how you can help each other and involve others in the person’s transportation needs. Family members or friends can assist the person with dementia or you can arrange taxi services. Ask your patient organization what available services that exists in your community.

Encourage them to talk to their doctor about driving.

The person might use medications that reduce the ability to drive, on top of the dementia. Some respond better to the concern from an authority figure. If you accompany the person with dementia to their doctor, ask them if they can write it down for later reference.

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The DemiCare project has been funded by the Active and Assisted Living programme. AAL is a European programme funding innovation that keeps people connected, healthy, active and happy into their old age.

AAL supports the development of products and services that make a real difference to people’s lives - for those facing some of the challenges of ageing and for those who care for older people if they need help.

The project has an overall budget of 2.029.091,76 €, to which the AAL will contribute with 1.477.535,07 €