Q. My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease recently. It hasn't been a problem yet, but I am wondering when my mother and I will know when it is time for Dad to stop driving.
A. Driving is a very complex activity that requires quick reactions, clear and alert senses, good eye-hand coordination, and the ability to solve complex problems quickly. For a person with Alzheimer's disease, driving is a safety issue that affects the individual, their family, and their community. Eventually, since AD gets progressively worse, everyone with the disease must give up driving.
You and your mother should discuss your concerns about driving with your father. Ask him for his ideas about when he will stop driving, and what he would like you to do if you notice problems that he may not be aware of. Your father's physician can be a helpful resource, both by providing an "expert" opinion and by referring your father for a driving evaluation if needed.
Take time to monitor your father's driving by riding with him and watching for the following warning signs:
The occurrence of even one of these warning signs means that it is time for him to stop driving.
Before your father gets to the point where he must stop driving, develop an alternative transportation plan. This may include asking family members or friends to drive, hiring a driver, using taxis, or special senior citizen transportation.
Once you determine that your father's driving is unsafe, you, your mother, other family members and his physician should present a unified front, and consistently remind him not to drive. He may agree to stop, but not remember the agreement. Notes, changing the car keys, or even disabling or removing his car may be necessary to help him feel safe.
The Alzheimer's Association has additional information about driving safety, which you can obtain by calling 1-800-848-7097.
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