Discussion – Driving with Dementia

This animated video addresses the myriad of complex issues involved in assessing whether a person with dementia is fit to drive. We hope that it will engage the audience and generate discussion amongst the general public and health professionals to help us all be better informed.

 

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  1. Sandra 23 Nov 2015 | reply

    What about community transport? They provide great service to doctor appointments, shopping and even social outings.
    I understand that you were following your guidelines but also as uncomfortable as they might’ve been, surely you would have had solutions to the problems (under Mr. Jones’ point of view) presented?
    A lot of people are not aware of the wonders of community transport.

    • Prof Joe 27 Nov 2015 | reply

      Dear Sandra,
      Thanks for raising the point about community transport. You are right–they do a great job.
      We struggled to know what to put in and what to leave out in the videos. In the end we thought it best to try and get something that captured people’s interest and maybe that would motivate them to talk to others, the local doctor or visit other websites. Also, we were a bit worried about being too specific with solutions as what is available varies enormously from one place to another.

  2. Ewan 22 Nov 2015 | reply

    A former client was prevented from driving because her dementia reached the stage she occasionally ignored red traffic lights (which didn’t exist when she started driving). She also frequently forgot not only where she parked her car, but that she had even driven to the shops in the first place and walked home. It could take days to find her car again.

    My mother, who does not have dementia, voluntarily gave up driving years ago, partly because of risks from a declining ability to handle unexpected situations.

    Each case is different and needs to be assessed carefully. Sadly, sometimes difficult decisions adversely affecting a patients quality of life do need to be made, but should then include appropriate follow up care.

    • Prof Joe 23 Nov 2015 | reply

      Dear Ewan,
      Thanks for your contribution. I agree with you that these are difficult decisions and that each person’s situation is considered on their merits. Your client’s level of impairment certainly sounds like it was time to give away the driving. It is interesting that your mum choose to stop driving, something that we do not often discuss. If more knew that people who are well also stop driving it may make it a little easier for others to accept.

  3. Faith 22 Nov 2015 | reply

    I have dementia, and although it significantly impacts my daily life, I am still able to drive safely and without mistakes or incident…but only drive to places I know well. It turns out, at least for me, that driving is part of automatic function…and I am able to react appropriately and quickly to situations as they arise. I don’t think driving should automatically be suspended on diagnosis, or we Rusk people not wanting to get diagnosed. But instead I think people when diagnosed should be informed honestly of the possible dangers and what to look out for. There are driving tests one could take or ones family could monitor. Some can no longer drive safely, but that fear should not extend to everyone. It helps to look at each case individually.

    • Prof Joe 23 Nov 2015 | reply

      Dear Faith,

      You have very nicely summarized the issues that the medical researchers identified. You have managed the situation to be as safe and practical as possible. The second point about people not seeking medical care because they are fearful of the consequences from a diagnosis is sadly, also true. Hopefully, your experiences will encourage others to seek help if the are experiencing any health issues.

  4. Maggie Bower 22 Nov 2015 | reply

    My husband was diagnosed with lewy bodies dementia 18 months ago. He asked our geriatrician if he should continue to drive and the geriatrician sadly shook her head. It was indeed devastating for my husband but his ACAT assessor put it in a more positive light. She said “Well done for recognising you shouldn’t really be driving, it shows what a caring person you are”. I thought that was wonderful. He is indeed a caring person and, although he only had one very minor accident when he was still driving, he was clearly not the driver he used to be and what the statistics don’t perhaps show is that he was obviously causing annoyance to other drivers because his driving was much slower and he had much slower reactions and much less confidence than he used to have, despite having an impeccable driving record for more than 50 years. So it was a very difficult decision certainly, but I believe was the right one. Admittedly, he had me to drive him around, so that made the decision somewhat easier than in Mr Jones’ case, but it was still tough on him.

    • Prof Joe 23 Nov 2015 | reply

      Dear Maggie,

      You have beautifully and compassionately described the experiences of what happens at an incredibly difficult time for a person and their family, Not only do you have to come to terms with a diagnosis of a significant illness like Lewy Body Dementia but also the other changes forced on our everyday lives like driving.

      We want to promote the approach used by the ACAT assessor who looked at the positive side of the issue and there is an increasing focus on getting us all to think about “transitioning to a passenger”.

      The decision to stop driving is made somewhat easier if it is possible to keep ones lifestyle intact. This is often easier for people who live in the city.
      Well done on helping your husband through a difficult task.

  5. Bron 21 Nov 2015 | reply

    The first mistake- mention not driving at the end. Driving is so important to people as described. My husband once tried to get a taxi license. The rigorous testing had him pass. However, one doctor noted a low score and since then (3 years ago), he has been hounded by NSW RTAM (Roads & licensing Division) to prove ability. He gave up on being a taxi driver about 2 years ago. Too much hassle and harassment. And they keep writing and he keeps providing proof of ability. My Mum doesn’t drive now and my Dad now deceased was taken off the road by his Family because he almost killed someone and was clearly not quite able to drive. If I felt I couldn’t drive, I’d stop. However, my husband will never stop driving unless I pull that plug. Why? Because he associates being able to drive with the very essence of his being . . . . a Bloke.

    • Prof Joe 25 Nov 2015 | reply

      Dear Bron,

      Thanks for describing your experiences. I agree wholeheartedly with your final sentence that people being able to drive as a part of themselves. I think this is because one of the first visible steps we make when we become an adult is to “get our driver’s licence”! If we understand, what a driver’s licence represents to a person, that it is a sign of independence, freedom we may be better able to support the steps to take when they need to stop.

  6. Kath 21 Nov 2015 | reply

    It’s a good thing this is being looked at and public awareness is raised.
    Perhaps an adult ‘continuing to drive’ test may be applicable in some cases?

    • Prof Joe 22 Nov 2015 | reply

      Hi Kath,

      The simple question you pose is incredibly difficult to answer. At the moment we do not have enough information about who and when we should be offering “continuing to drive’ tests. What we do know is that using age as a cut-off for testing is not helpful nor fair.

  7. Libby 21 Nov 2015 | reply

    Thank you for this video. My father has been through a similar situation, in fact very similar to Mr Jones. The solution my family, my father’s geriatrician, the driving accessor and ‘reluctantly’ my father came up with, was to provide him with a conditional licence so he could still do many things that maintained his quality of life but just reduced risks. He can still drive locally but not on freeways and highways due to the speed required for reaction time in a high speed environment. My father would have been devastated to lose his licence so good outcome with review in 12 months.

    • Prof Joe 22 Nov 2015 | reply

      Hi Libby,

      That’s a very positive and sensible outcome. I am happy that was possible for your father. Hopefully, this discussion will highlight the situation and enable a better life for older people.

  8. Jen Stone 21 Nov 2015 | reply

    As someone now reaching the age of “the elderly” it is a relief to see someone looking more broadly at the issues involved, without the judgemental attitudes that seem to prevail in the media, the medical world and with politicians.
    I saw this with my parents and grandparents and I am now seeing it with my friends and myself.
    This video should be a spring board for reasoned discussion.

    • Prof Joe 22 Nov 2015 | reply

      Hi Jen,

      Thanks.
      Lets hope we are able to generate a reasoned discussion. It always hard in this day and age because of the speed society moves. On the other hand, without the modern technology advances we would not be engaged in this discussion.

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