Alzheimer's Disease Causes, Stages, and Symptoms (cont.)
Howard Crystal, MD
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
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Driving is a complex activity that demands quick reactions, alert senses, and split-second decision making. For a person with Alzheimer's disease, driving becomes increasingly difficult. Memory loss, impaired judgment, disorientation, impaired visual and spatial perception, slow reaction time, certain medications, diminished attention span, and inability to recognize cues such as stop signs and traffic lights can make driving particularly hazardous.
People with Alzheimer's who continue to drive can be a danger to themselves, their passengers, and the community at large. As the disease progresses, they lose driving skills and must stop driving. Unfortunately, people with Alzheimer's often cannot recognize when they should no longer drive. This is a tremendous safety concern. It is extremely important to have the impaired person's driving abilities carefully evaluated.
Warning Signs of Unsafe Driving
Often, the caregiver or a family member, neighbor, or friend is the first to become aware of the safety hazards of someone with Alzheimer's behind the wheel. If a person with Alzheimer's disease experiences one of more of the following problems, it may be time to limit or stop driving.
Does the person with Alzheimer's:
Please do not wait for an accident to happen. Take action immediately!
Explaining to the person with Alzheimer's disease that he or she can no longer drive can be extremely difficult. Loss of driving privileges may represent a tremendous loss of independence, freedom, and identity. It is a significant concern for the person with Alzheimer's and the caregiver. The issue of not driving may produce anger, denial, and grief in the person with Alzheimer's, as well as guilt and anxiety in the caregiver. Family and concerned professionals need to be both sensitive and firm. Above all, they should be persistent and consistent.
The doctor of a person with Alzheimer's disease can assist the family with the task of restricting driving. Talk with the doctor about your concerns. Most people will listen to their doctor. Ask the doctor to advise the person with Alzheimer's to reduce his or her driving, go for a driving evaluation or test, or stop driving altogether. An increasing number of States have laws requiring physicians to report Alzheimer's and related disorders to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The Department of Motor Vehicles then is responsible for retesting the at-risk driver. Testing should occur regularly, at least yearly.
When dementia impairs driving and the person with Alzheimer's disease continues to insist on driving, a number of different approaches may be necessary.
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Alzheimer's Disease - Dementia Question: Has a friend or relative been diagnosed with dementia? What are her/his symptoms?
Alzheimer's Disease - Warning Signs Question: Do you have any of the warning signs of Alzheimer's? Please discuss your symptoms and concerns.
Alzheimer's Disease - Home Safety Question: In what ways have you made the home safer for a friend or relative with Alzheimer's disease?
Alzheimer's Disease - Medications Question: If your relative is on a medication for Alzheimer's, what changes have you noticed?
Alzheimer's Disease - Driving Question: What motivated you to take away the keys or car from your loved one who has Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer's Disease - Treatments Question: What stage of Alzheimer's disease are you or your loved one currently experiencing, and have any treatments been effective?
Alzheimer's Disease - Prognosis Question: What is the prognosis for your friend or relative who has Alzheimer's disease?
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