Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease affect cognitive tasks such as memory, reasoning and decision-making skills. Drivers with these conditions should be carefully monitored in the early stages; as their condition worsens, they will eventually need to stop driving.
Dementia is an umbrella term for diseases and conditions that cause a decline in memory, language, problem solving and other cognitive skills. Dementia is most commonly caused by Alzheimer’s disease, but there are other forms of dementia unrelated to Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Disease accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases. It is not a normal part of aging, but a progressive brain disease which has no cure. However, there are treatments that can help slow the progression of the disease.
Early warning signs of Alzheimer’s include:
- Forgetting recently learned information, dates and events
- Difficulties planning, problem solving, and/or working with numbers
- Difficulties completing familiar tasks
- Confusion about time or place
- Vision problems
- Difficulty finding words in conversation
- Misplacing things
- Decreased judgment and decision-making skills
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
Many of these symptoms affect one’s ability to drive. Due to a decreased capacity for reasoning and decision-making, people with Alzheimer’s disease may not realize their driving is getting worse. This makes it very difficult for family members.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, discuss driving with a primary care provider or doctor. In the earliest stages, driving short distances to familiar places may still be possible, but for your own and others’ safety, you should seek out alternative transportation. Try some of them out in the early stages so it becomes familiar. (For a list of alternatives, go to our Transportation Options page).