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Driving and Dementia

Posted by Karen Thompson on

Most individuals who receive a dementia diagnosis also experience the loss of their driver's licence. For some, this can be embarrassing, undignifying, and impacts their sense of choice and determination. However, this precaution of taking away a licence is essential to maintain not only an individual's safety but also the safety of other drivers on the road. It's also important to remember that it's not their fault. 

This is often a difficult conversation to have, many individuals voicing how they think it's unfair that the doctor took away their licence and not completely understanding why. So, how can we make it better?

It's important to be upfront, honest, and clear about the loss of a driver's licence and why it happened. Don't make them feel upset, embarrassed, or like it is their fault. Empathize with them and let them know that driving does not mean they no longer have choices. 

Moving forward, if you do own a car, practice tucking the keys out of sight. Keeping them tucked away will reduce that constant reminder that they can no longer drive and hopefully reduce the chances that they will pick up the keys and start driving when they are not supposed to. Provide a task for individuals to do before getting in the car to offset those feelings. Make them responsible for grabbing a bag, drinks, or any other items you might bring with you in the car. This provides individuals with a sense of purpose and might lessen those negative feelings. 

Some helpful sayings to help reduce these negative feelings include: 

  • The doctor thought it was best for everyone. 
  • It's not your fault. 
  • We just want to keep you safe.
  • Remind them of their memory loss and be upfront about their diagnosis and comfort them. 
  • Offer to drive instead. 
  • Engage in alternatives to driving, such as walking or biking. 

 These conversations are never easy, but with your support, individuals with dementia can live dignifying, meaningful lives regardless of a driver's licence.

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