Driving is often one of the first obstacles that a family faces when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia. In the very early stages of dementia, many people maintain the ability to drive. Since dementia is a progressive illness, deciding when that ability has diminished causes great distress in many families.
When is a good time to have “The Talk?”
When deciding to have “The Talk” with a loved one with dementia, remember that losing the privilege to drive will make some people feel angry, sad, frustrated, or hopeless. The conservation about driving is not easy and it may add strain on the relationship between the caregiver and the person with dementia. No one wants to wait until a loved one gets lost or has an accident before having a conversation about giving up driving.
Here are a few suggestions about the conversation:
• Be prepared and know what alternative transportation services are available.
• Avoid confrontation. Stay positive and supportive, discussing skills not age.
• It is a conversation that will need to happen more than once.
• Focus on safety and appeal to their sense of responsibility.
• Discuss the cold reality of causing an accident that could result in injuries, damages or even death.
• Ask the family physician to advise the person not to drive. Involve the physician in the conversation.
It’s a good idea to plan how to approach the subject before bringing it up. Take time to consider how the situation looks from the driver’s point of view and what driving means to him or her.