How to cope when a loved one has dementia and still drives

Summary reposted from The Star.


When to stop driving

A 2004 study from Queen’s University reported that by 2028, there will be approximately 100,000 drivers within Ontario that suffer from dementia.

Driving requires many skills that diminish with the onset of dementia: the ability to remember destinations, quick judgment, remembering rules of the road, reaction time and the ability to divide your attention.

Living with dementia is a tough, daily undertaking. Forgetfulness complicates normal routines and impaired reasoning, deficits in judgment, disorientation in time or place, and changes in personality can all cause increased stress. The thought of having to abandon independence-infused tasks like driving can be a lot to handle. For family members hoping to broach this issue with aging relatives, it can be a complicated conversation.

A 2013 study at the University of Queensland, Australia, highlighted the need for a structured approach to the subject. Caregivers who broached the subject using an “in it together” method faced less tension and enjoyed smoother family dynamics.

Ending the stigma associated with age-related cognitive change is becoming more important than ever in our aging society. Beginning the conversation is the most difficult, yet necessary step. Though it may represent a loss of independence, self-worth, and dignity, it can both help reduce the risk and harm to yourself, your loved ones and people around you.

Tips To Consider When Broaching The Subject:

  • Invite their physician, family, friends, and caregivers to participate in the conversation
  • Have a relaxed atmosphere
  • State that the goal is to ensure safety of themselves and others, while maintaining independence
  • Reduce their need to drive by delivering necessary items
  • Provide a list of alternative forms of transportation (public transit, caregivers, community resources)
  • Begin the conversation before they need it so that they are not surprised

Benefits of Driving Cessation:

  • Saving money on insurance, gas, car payments, parking
  • No fear of being a liability on the road
  • Less stress, more exercise

Dr. Helen Senderovich is a lecturer in the University of Toronto, Department of Family and Community Medicine. She is a physician focused on geriatrics, palliative care and pain medicine at Baycrest Health Sciences. Joshua Tordjman is an MSc Candidate at the University of Western Ontario, London. Doctors’ Notes is a weekly column by members of the U of T Faculty of Medicine. Email

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