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Care should be taken when Alzheimer's patients lose ability to drive

Apr. 26, 2013 @ 12:05 AM

Driving demands quick reaction time and fast decision making -- because of this, a person with Alzheimer's or other types of dementia will eventually become unable to drive. Dealing with the issue early on can help ease the transition.

Caregivers should take time to discuss the issue in a caring way, understanding how unhappy the person may be to admit that he or she has reached this stage.

A person with some memory loss may be able to drive safely sometimes. But, he or she may not be able to react quickly when faced with a surprise on the road. Someone could get hurt or killed. If the person's reaction time slows, you need to stop the person from driving.

Here are some other things to know about driving and memory loss:

The person may be able to drive short distances on local streets during the day but may not be able to drive safely at night or on a freeway. If this is the case, then limit the times and places the person can drive.

Some people with memory problems decide on their own not to drive, while others may deny they have a problem.

Signs that the person should stop driving include new dents and scratches on the car. You may also notice that the person takes a long time to do a simple errand and cannot explain why, which may indicate that he or she got lost.

Here are some ways to stop people with Alzheimer's disease from driving:

Try talking about your concerns with the person.

Take him or her to get a driving test.

Ask your doctor to tell him or her to stop driving. The doctor can write, "Do not drive" on a prescription pad, and you can show this to the person.

Hide the car keys, move the car, take out the distributor cap, or disconnect the battery.

Find out about services that help people with disabilities get around their community. These services may include free or low-cost buses, taxi service, and carpools.

If the person with Alzheimer's disease won't stop driving, ask your state Department of Motor Vehicles about a medical review or contact the person's physician.

Source: National Institutes of Health

Healthy Habits 2013 is a partnership among Cabell Huntington Hospital, Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and St. Mary's Medical Center. We are a community working together to improve our health. Our goal is a simple one: to inform and encourage area residents on ways to improve their health. Join our conversation and "like" us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/healthyhabits2013.

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