Driving and Alzheimer’s Disease: Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Questions

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that affects memory and thinking skills. Over time, it also affects a person’s ability to do even simple tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is one form of dementia.

If you care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or you’re concerned that they may one day develop it, you may have questions about their ability to drive safely. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions regarding driving and Alzheimer’s disease.

My family member/loved one is not yet diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but we are worried they may have it. What are some potential signs of Alzheimer’s disease that show up when someone is driving?

Here are a few warning signs that indicate it may be unsafe for someone to drive. Although these signs are not always proof that someone has Alzheimer’s disease, it should lead you to check with their doctor for further examination. Signs like the ones outlined here also could be associated with medication side effects or depression.

Here are the signs, as shared by the Alzheimer’s Foundation:

  • No longer remembering how to get to familiar places
  • Making poor decisions while driving
  • Not obeying traffic signs,
  • Driving at an inappropriate speed
  • Feeling confusion over basic driving concepts, such as which pedals are for the brakes versus gas
  • Getting unexplained dents on the car
  • Getting into accidents more frequently

Is it safe for someone with Alzheimer’s disease to drive?

In most cases, no. This is because a person with Alzheimer’s usually does not have the decision-making skills to make good decisions when driving. Someone with very mild Alzheimer’s disease may be able to drive in certain conditions, according to the National Institute on Aging. Of course, this is something you should always ask a doctor about first. A person with moderate or severe Alzheimer’s should never be behind the wheel. 

Do state laws guide when someone with Alzheimer’s disease should stop driving?

It depends. Some states require doctors to report the name of someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles office. Also find out if you also need to report the information to your insurance company.

My family member/loved one does not have Alzheimer’s disease, but they are getting older. I want to make sure they are driving safely on the road. What can I do?

The American Occupational Therapy Association maintains a database of driver rehabilitation specialists who can assess a person’s on-the-road skills. There may be a cost involved with this. The Department of Motor Vehicles also may be able to recommend a professional who assesses driver skills.



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