Driving and dementia
Headshot image - Marty Finley, Memory Care Navigator

Marty Finley, M-Ed
Memory Care Navigator

I’m concerned that dementia is compromising the driving safety of a loved one. What signs should I look for?

(As seen in the Sun City West Independent)

If other drivers are frequently honking at them, that can be a sign that dementia is diminishing driving skills. There are other things to look for, including:

  • Inability to correctly react at an intersection
  • Riding the brakes
  • Failure to stay in the correct turning lane
  • Dents on the older adult driver’s car, or a lot of “near-misses” with other vehicles
  • Inability to park in a standard space
  • Allowing a more-than-necessary distance from another car or object

Misjudging distance does not necessarily reflect vision problems. With dementia, a person’s vision may be adequate, but the message from the eyes to the brain may not be getting through correctly. Thus, the driver allows extra space without realizing it.

Any form of progressive dementia will eventually erode safe-driving skills. As that approaches, an adult child, relative or caregiver should broach the topic, even though such a discussion might be uncomfortable.

To ease the discomfort, tell the person that his or her well-being is your prime concern, and that you realize giving up driving brings on a big loss of independence. Assure them you’ll strive to offset that loss.

Two helpful sources are:

Marty Finley, MEd, is a navigator for the Sun Health Memory Care Navigator Program, a free service, for patients and their loved ones navigating dementia. For more information, call 623-832-9300 or visit www.sunhealthwellbeing.org/memory-care

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