By Craig Escobar

In Parts one and two of this three parts series I laid out facts and statistics regarding Alzheimer’s, how pervasive it has become and also provided a list of tips and tactics that if put into action have been proven to be helpful for both family caregivers and professional caregivers. We covered a total of fourteen different tips and tactics between parts one and two. If anyone missed them, feel free to read them here. In this final part I am going to address an important topic that I’m afraid is not addressed enough. Tips and Tactics for Alzheimer’s and Driving is the perfect area to finish our list.

Alzheimer’s and Driving:

I’ve heard it from my own grandmother and countless other seniors, “I lost my freedom when I gave up my car”. We have to remember that driving for seniors represents freedom and independence especially on Long Island, but more importantly, we must remember that a senior’s ability to drive safely can be compromised by changes in their physical, emotional, mental and cognitive conditions.

Driving is a complex skill that needs to be taken very seriously. Seniors can keep their independence even when they have to stop driving by planning ahead with family, friends and professional caregivers focused on Alzheimer’s care throughout Long Island. Outside of friends, family and professional caregivers; consider taxi cab services like Uber and Lyft as well as shuttle buses or vans. Here at SeniorCare Companions, we have a large staff so we have many wonderful caregivers that are able to drive and we also have a business account with Uber enabling us to help restore the freedom and independence a senior may lose when they give up their car. Many times seniors don’t want to be a “pain” or a “bother” even though their kids may not see it that way which is why it’s so valuable to have a plan in place prior to the senior giving up their car.

Now that we addressed the importance of addressing driving for people with Alzheimer’s, I would like to help establish some early and clear warning signs that Alzheimer’s is affecting someone with Alzheimer’s. Below are some warning signs to look for:

  •  The person needs more help than they used to with directions or with learning a new driving route.
  •  The person is having trouble remembering where they’re going or where they left their car.
  •  The person feels confused when exiting a highway or by traffic signs such as a four-way stop.
  •  They are receiving multiple citations for moving violations.
  •  More people than usual are often honking their horns at them.
  •  They stop at a green light, go on a red light or brake inappropriately.
  •  The person is getting lost on routes that they were once familiar with.
  •  People with Alzheimer’s have less control over their muscles making it harder to push down on the pedals or turn the steering wheel causing them to drift out of their lane.
  •  The person is having trouble making turns, especially left turns.
  •  Dents and scrapes are appearing on their car that they can’t explain.
  •  Other people are questioning their driving safety and sometimes the person has a hard time controlling their anger, sadness, or other emotions that can affect their driving.

What to do when the warning signs are evident:

Driving generally isn’t safe for those in all but the earliest stages of dementia. Here’s how you can handle the transition:

  • Be Firm: Don’t allow your loved one to drive on “good days” but forbid it on “bad days.” Offer sympathy when he or she expresses unhappiness with the situation, but don’t give in.
  • Get a Doctor’s Help: The person may view the doctor as an “authority” and be willing to stop driving. The doctor also can contact the Department of Motor Vehicles and request that the person be reevaluated.
  • Employ a Care Giver: The same way you can substitute “Personal Assistant” for Care Giver, you can present the Care Giver as a “Chauffeur” of sorts to drive them around. Perception is key!
  • Take the Car Keys: If just having keys is important to the person, substitute a different set of keys.
  • Move the Car: If all else fails, disable the car or move it to a location where the person cannot see it or gain access to it.

Visiting the Doctor:

Here are some tips and tactics for dealing with medical appointments:

  • Bring a Caregiver: Having a reliable and compassionate person take the trip will not only help to ease the person but will also enable one of you to speak with the doctor while the other speaks to the person.
  • Schedule Wisely: Try to schedule the appointment for the person’s best time of day. Also, ask the office staff what time of day the office is least crowded.
  • Give Short Notice: Don’t tell the person about the appointment until the day of the visit or even shortly before it is time to go. Be positive and firm.
  • Bring Snacks and Activities: Bringing snacks and drinks as well as different things to do is a great way to keep the person agreeable.