Driving and Alzheimer’s Disease, Part 2: When to Take Away the Keys

Last month, we shared an article about warning signs that indicate that an older adult may need to stop driving due to brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. This month, our article continues with a focus on what to do if the loved one in your life must stop driving. 

The driving/not driving conversation with an older loved one (no matter the reason) is challenging because driving has such a strong relationship with a person’s sense of independence. However, it’s obviously a safety issue for themselves and for the drivers and passengers around them. 

You can read our article from last month on the Secure Aging blog to learn about the signs that driving is an issue for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The bottom line is someone with diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease generally should not be driving. 

How to Discuss the Need to Stop Driving

Let’s say that your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia needs to stop driving. How do you broach the subject of taking away the keys? Here are a few tips from the National Institute on Aging:

  1. Talk to them about the need to stop driving. This may be a sensitive conversation, so try to have other trusted loved ones involved in this talk as well. Emphasize the need for safety and other transportation options that may be available (we share some ideas below). Start the conversation early, perhaps even before the need to stop driving arises. You may need to have this conversation several times, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The Alzheimer’s Association shares more tips for broaching the driving conversation with your loved one.
  2. Ask them to take a driving test. Your state may have rules on whether a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s can drive. You can always refer to state laws, but if it’s still a gray area, encourage them to take a test so a professional can assess their skills and make a judgment.
  3. Make their doctor an ally. The doctor may even be willing to write, “Do not drive” on a prescription pad, the National Institute on Aging shares. This voice of authority may be an easier way to convince a loved one to stop driving.
  4. Find other ways to impede driving if needed. This can include hiding car keys, moving the car, taking out the distributor cap, or disconnecting the battery.

Looking at New Ways to Get Around Town

Find out in advance about other ways that your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia can get around, so they don’t feel hopeless. Some possibilities may include:

  • Buses
  • Taxis or rideshare services
  • Carpools
  • Ride services specifically for older adults, often managed by church or community group volunteers
  • Rides with family and friends. This may be the safest option if the Alzheimer’s or dementia is severe enough that venturing on their own would cause confusion.

The groups US Aging and Eldercare Locator may have other resources. 

Also, try to find ways to reduce the number of times that your loved one needs to leave the home. Perhaps there are more appointments that can be scheduled on the same day, or you can use delivery services for medications or groceries.

Call Secure Aging to Find Out How We Can Help Seniors With Care Management

At Secure Aging in Bradenton, we transform the weight of the world into a sigh of relief for our senior clients and their concerned family members. The mission of Secure Aging is to protect and preserve our client’s independence and dignity through careful and thoughtful financial and care management. As our clients age, it is their desire to remain independent and age with dignity. Our services protect our clients from talented con artists looking to exploit and deplete the financial resources of our vulnerable seniors. Secure Aging helps families in Manatee County and Sarasota County and in and around the communities of Anna Maria, Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Ellenton, Holmes Beach, Lakewood Ranch, Longboat Key, Myakka City, Palmetto, Parrish, and Sarasota. Call us at 941-761-9338, or visit us online at www.secureaging.com.

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