Driving with dementia and knowing when to quit

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Doctors agree that people with moderate to severe Alzheimer's Disease should not get behind the wheel.

In the early stages of the disease, experts say a person's ability to drive should be the determining factor of when to stop driving, not the disease itself.

Experts say a person with Alzheimer's may not be aware of their driving skills deteriorating and may be unable to assess their abilities.

That's why it is important for caregivers to work closely with their loved one to monitor their driving and safety.

Here are some tips and tools that can help:

Warning Signs: The best way to keep tabs on your loved one's driving ability to take frequent rides with them. Take notice if someone is struggling to remember routes to familiar places, driving at inappropriate speeds, tailgating, drifting between lanes and reacting slowly. Also, see if your loved one had any fender benders or tickets lately. If you need assessment help, hire a driver rehabilitation specialist

Transition Tips: If you think it is still safe for your loved one to drive, start recommending some simple adjustments, like driving only in daylight and on familiar routes. Also, avoid busy roads and bad weather. Experts suggest having your loved one sign an Alzheimer's "driving contract" that designates someone to tell them when it is no longer safe to drive.

You may also want to purchase a GPS vehicle tracking system to help you keep an eye on them.

Time to Quit: When your loved one's driving gets to be too dangerous, you need to talk to them. It is best to start having these conversations in the early stages of the disease, before they need to quite driving, so they can prepare themselves. You also should have a plan for alternative transportation that will help them to get around town.

Refuses to Quit: If your loved one refuses to quit, suggest a visit to their doctor for a medical evaluation. Older people will often listen to their doctor before a family member If they still refuse, contact the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.

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