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Driving | Common Signs

  • Has difficulty with the functions of the car (e.g. turning on lights, windshield wipers)
  • Has difficulty maintaining attention and concentration when driving
  • Forgets familiar routes when driving
  • Fails to recognize traffic signs (e.g. stop signs)
  • Drives too fast (above the speed limit)
  • Drives too slow (below the speed limit)
  • Makes slow or poor decisions when driving (This can also be an example of the symptom of problems with decision making.)
  • Forgets where they parked the car
  • Leaves the car running unattended
  • Leaves the gas tank door open
  • Forget where they were going or gets lost when driving
Driving | General Description

Driving is a complex activity that requires a variety of cognitive and sensory activities which become impaired with all dementias. Because the ability of the person you care for to operate the vehicle is impaired, safety becomes a serious concern. Not only is the person you care for at risk, but so are other drivers and pedestrians. The person you care for may have problems with their judgment, attentiveness and concentration. This can lead to difficulties when driving, as the person may lose focus of the road and not see other cars, pedestrians or traffic lights. Memory impairments may also provide additional problems when driving. For example, the person you care for may forget how basic functions work, where they were going or to turn off the car when they leave.

Patients with Lewy body dementia can have particular problems with judging distances early in the course of the illness. As Lewy body dementia also can result in hallucinations early in the course, many physicians believe that no one with Lewy body dementia should drive. Others see some room for flexibility, but only if the patient has had a very beneficial response to treatment. In general, no one with moderate or severe dementia of any type should drive. In mild dementia, some people, especially those on treatment, can drive well enough to pass formal driving tests. In general, however, everyone with dementias should be initiating a plan to give up driving. This should be reflected in any treatment goals set for this problem.

The decision to stop driving is extremely difficult for most people. Many people with dementia, especially those with Frontotemporal dementia , have little or no insight that they are unable to drive safely and may become quite angry when the caregiver tells them they can no longer drive. Often it is helpful when the decision to stop driving comes from an authority figure like a physician and the family are instructed to remove the keys and/or vehicle in the presence of the person with Frontotemporal dementia.

If this symptom is affecting your daily life, SymptomGuideTM can help you understand and communicate with your doctor and family members. You can start using SymptomGuideTM now by creating your individualized profile.

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See Also:
About Dementia > Alzheimer's Disease > Memory
Symptom Library > Thinking & Judgment > Unsafe Actions
Symptom Library > Personality Changes > Independence
Symptom Library > Thinking & Judgment > Decision Making
Symptom Library > Thinking & Judgment > Attention/Concentration (lack of)
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Last updated January 9, 2019
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