One of the worst things that can make a senior feel really old is when they find out they are no longer allowed to drive. Many seniors depend on their vehicles to get around. They may live in a rural area where driving is a necessity. They may feel they are giving up one of their privileges as an adult. For those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, their doctor has no choice but to take their right to drive away. This is not only to ensure their safety but to ensure the safety of others on the road.
How can dementia affect your driving abilities?
Your Reaction Time
Those with dementia become slower to react and respond to people and things around them. If a car should suddenly put on its brakes in front of them, by the time a patient with dementia noticed it would be too late. People crossing the street from between parked cars seem to appear out of nowhere and dementia patients wouldn’t respond in time to avoid hitting them.
Do you really have time to make that turn before the oncoming car in the other lane hits you? These are normal judgements that drivers make day after day. With dementia, your judgement is off. While you think you have lots of time, that car is a lot closer than it appears to be.
Your Ability to Multitask
Driving consists of doing multiple tasks at the same time. Watching for other cars and pedestrians, checking your mirrors, applying the brakes when needed, all while paying attention to what is in front of you. Your ability to multitask slowly disappears with dementia. Doing one thing at a time is the best way to focus and driving depends on your ability to do many things at once.
More than half a million Canadians have some form of dementia and with an aging population that is expected to rise to almost one million people within fifteen years. Dementia patients need to prepare for the day when they can no longer drive. Other options can be put in place and if your loved one needs to move into a more central area, it is best to do it earlier in the disease and not wait. To read more on dementia and driving, it’s effects and how to prepare, click here.