Driving and getting around
While many people living with dementia can continue to drive safely for a time, there will come a point when driving must cease. It is a difficult transition for many people. Engaging a person living with dementia and their carers from the earliest opportunity in discussions about driving and what local options are available is important.
Some choose to give up their licence. Some prefer to have a full driving assessment to assist in making that decision – this can be discussed early and planned for. Others choose not to hand in their licence, but are happy to let others do all the driving.
Social workers and any allied health professional who works with dementia:
- can start the discussion about the transition and explore other transport options such as public transport, community transport, taxi vouchers and companion cards.
- assess a person’s capacity and abilities in the many domains required for safe driving
- can provide training in community mobility skills especially if driving is no longer an option.
- assess cognitive changes that may impact on driving ability and make recommendation for on-road driving assessment.
When Michael was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it was recommended that he have a specialised occupational therapy driving assessment due to slowing of his reaction time and a reduction in his decision-making judgement. Michael passed, with the recommendation to continue driving with an unrestricted licence. He would need to repeat this specialist driving assessment yearly, or sooner if his symptoms declined more rapidly.
After some time, his driving skills changed, and Michael was having problems finding his way around. Michael and his wife decided to downsize to an apartment which was on the bus route; Michael gave up his driver’s license and embraced public transport. He asked to wear an ID band on his wrist, with his name, address and wife’s contact details. Two years later, Michael continues to be a keen user of public transport.
The National Dementia Helpline is an Australian Government funded initiative.