What to do When Dad Shouldn’t Drive

One of the toughest conversations we have – or dread having – when someone we love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementia is the discussion about whether that person can continue to drive.  For gentlemen of a certain age, the ability to drive is inextricably intertwined with their perception of themselves as independent adults.  And in rural areas, as well as cities like Los Angeles and Phoenix where public transportation is not well-developed, there are not a lot of realistic alternatives for transportation.

While giving up the car keys can severely restrict a person’s independence, and even cause some depression, these issues are secondary to our concern for the safety of both our loved one, and others on the road.  Even in its early stages, dementia can affect a person’s depth perception, reaction time and likelihood of getting lost.

Of course, the best-case scenario is that our loved one agrees to stop driving once we, or perhaps his doctor, have presented our concerns. Other families have been successful taking away the keys or making the vehicle inoperable. It may also be possible to get some assistance of your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to take away the person’s driver’s license.

Here in Arizona, a person who is aware of a loved one’s diagnosis of dementia can submit a  Driver Condition/Behavior report to the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles. (Go to www.azdot.gov/docs/default-surce/mvd-forms-pubs/96-0469.pdf?sfvrsn=0 to see the form.)  A physician or psychologist can also report an individual to the Motor Vehicle Division, if they believe that the person’s condition significantly impairs their ability to drive safely.   While these are state-specific procedures, check with the comparable agency in your state to see if similar assistance is available.

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