When should the Alzheimer's patient stop driving? This question is more complex than it seems. The reason: Driving is a habitual skill, and many Alzheimer's patients can appear capable of driving competently well into the disease.
Nevertheless, some troubling questions remain. For example, could the patient react instantly in an emergency? Are reflexes and muscular coordination still good? Are eyesight and hearing unimpaired? Can decisions still be made quickly and accurately? If there is any doubt about the answer to any of these questions, then the risks of driving are probably too high.
Driving tends to be an emotional subject because it represents personal independence, so try to discuss the situation calmly with the patient. Possible reactions include relief, anger and stubbornness. Offer sympathy and understanding. The Alzheimer's patient will need to express these legitimate feelings of distress and loss. But, for safety's sake, you'll have to remain firm.
It may be hard for you to "lay down the law" to a spouse or parent. However, since a confused driver is a danger to everyone, you really have no choice. If the patient insists on having the car keys, you can disable the car by unscrewing the distributor cap. (Some caregivers solve the problem by parking the car away from the house for a while.)
Reprinted with permission from AHAF.org