Social Work Supervisor
Tools for Saving Lives
Driving is a particularly challenging area to manage following a dementia diagnosis. Access to a car represents independence. Taking it away may feel disrespectful and punititive. But independence must be balanced against the safety of both the individual and the community. A physician can provide guidance on the individual’s ability to drive, but as the disease progresses and the individual can no longer drive, caregivers need tools to manage this difficult discussion openly and productively.
“At the Crossroads,” a booklet developed by the Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence, focuses on the importance of planning early, assessing driving abilities, easing the transition from driver to passenger and having a positive and productive conversation with the person with dementia that includes family members. This booklet is a useful tool that allows family members to rehearse “the talk.” Several worksheets are provided to plan and explore various issues: what are the warning signs for drivers with dementia? What are alternative transportation options to get around? What are the care recipient’s usual driving activities and frequency? There are resources for planning the conversation and identifying family and/or friends who can be helpful.
“At the Crossroads” is a very helpful tool and it can be downloaded online at https://s0.hfdstatic.com/sites/the_hartford/files/cmme-crossroads.pdf. You can also call the CaringKind Helpline at 646-744-2900 and we will send you an English or Spanish version of the booklet.
Another practical guide is Dementia and Driving: a Decision Aid, developed by group of faculty members at Australia’s University of Wollongong. While some local policy and regulations might not be directly applicable, the guide provides an easy and simple checklist to use for someone with mild cognitive impairment or in the early stage of Alzheimer’s.
Step 1: Clarify your decision.
Step 2: Identify resources to make your decision.
Step 3: Consider your options.
Step 4: Take the next steps.
This guide is designed to give care recipients a voice in the decision and makes them part of the plan.
Another option is to submit a driver review to The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. This can be done anonymously and is most effective when accompanied by a physician’s medical review statement. Once the DMV receives the request via mail, an appointment is set up to evaluate the person’s driving ability and judgement.
CaringKind’s Social Work staff can talk with you individually or as a family to develop your action plan. We can meet in person or on the phone. We provide these services in English, Spanish and Chinese with licensed social workers. If needed, CaringKind has a translation service that accesses over 200 languages.
Don’t wait to have this important discussion. If you are worried about a person with dementia who is driving, please call 646-744-2900 to speak to one of our professional staff about the issues you are facing related to dementia and driving. This conversation could save a life.