When It Is Time To Take The Car Keys

By Insurance.com Posted : 05/17/2007

Early warning signs of Alzheimer's disease and dementia may be hard to diagnose, but what may be even harder is deciding on how and when to take away the car keys from a motorist who relies on driving in their day-to-day life.

The Hartford became a founding sponsor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) AgeLab in 1999. The Hartford's Advance 50 Team and the MIT AgeLab are committed to producing original research to improve the quality of life for older adults and their families. Through publications, professional meetings and public education, The Hartford/MIT AgeLab partnership has successfully reached millions of people in the United States and around the globe with high quality, meaningful information to guide important decisions about safety, mobility and independence.

One section on their AgeLab website named, The Talk With Older Drivers offers ideas on how to approach the situation and what to discuss with a driver you feel may potentially have one of these diseases.

Alzheimer's disease and dementia can lead to confused and impaired judgment which can affect the driver's perception of distance, hinder their ability to make quick decisions, and ultimately make them a driving hazard not only to themselves, but to other drivers as well. The hard thing about these diseases is that most people do not recognize they have a problem or that their driving skills are diminishing. And, by taking away their privilege to drive, many feel that their freedom and independence is at stake. But it's a decision that no matter how hard, must be made to keep people safe.

A few steps that may be taken to ease the transition from driver to passenger are to:

  • Limit driving to daylight hours only
  • Only permit driving on familiar roads
  • Ask friends and relatives to help with transportation
  • Arrange to have groceries delivered

Have your own driving assessment test
There is no actual test or surefire way to diagnose whether or not a driver has Alzheimer's disease or dementia, but you can make your own assessment on how their driving skills are.

To help, Insurance.com has made a list of things to look for when making your own driving assessment. Look for patterns or repeating incidents, and keep your eyes open for warning signs that there might be an issue with driving. Also:

  • Talk to other family members about your concern, and be sure they keep an eye on the driver as well
  • Observe their driving and note the times and dates of anything that makes you feel nervous-such as if they miss a turn, cut the wheel too hard, hit curbs, drive on lawns, forget directions to familiar places, drive too fast or too slow for certain conditions, etc.
  • When it's time to talk to your family member or friend, be sure to discuss the alternatives to driving. Don't get them on the defensive, and reassure them that their freedom isn't being taken away
  • If needed, get assistance from a doctor or health care provider to help explain to the person that there may be a serious problem

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