Planning to stop driving
Discussions about driving are usually emotionally charged and require planning. You know your person better than anyone and may be able to anticipate what their reaction to discussing driving might be. Start discussions as early as possible and use your knowledge of how they react to difficult conversations to help plan a strategy.
- Some people with dementia have insight into the difficulties that dementia will cause with their driving and are willing to talk about giving up their licence.
- Having control over their situation is usually important, and issues such as voluntarily reducing their driving, having a formal driving assessment, deciding when to hand in their licence, how they wish to dispose of their car (if necessary) and making arrangements for alternative transport can help ease the transition to giving up driving.
- Working through a decision-making aid can also help. This booklet gives step-by-step exercises to help support the decision of when to give up driving. The booklet is also available in other languages on this page.
Some people may become defensive as soon as the issue of driving is brought up. Sometimes an authority figure may be needed to lead these difficult conversations. The person’s GP or specialist, or a family member whose judgement is greatly respected may be the right person to broach the subject. It is rare that the person will only need to be told once they can no longer drive.
Discussions about driving
Prepare what you are going to say. Sometimes, emphasising the impacts on others should they have an accident may appeal to their ‘better nature’. Sometimes telling them the fact their insurance may be void or they could face prosecution if they were in an accident is warranted.
It is important to approach the subject gradually, provide support for their feelings, and offer alternatives to driving.
This video on Youtube shows the experience of other families dealing with driving and dementia. It includes:
- noticing first signs of difficulties with driving due to dementia,
- having the conversations about giving up, and
- where they went to for support.
If you want to jump to the section on ‘starting the conversation’ move to the time stamp of 5:48 in the video.
What if they try to keep driving?
In some cases, even when a driver’s licence is revoked the person continues to drive. They may simply have forgotten and need a reminder. Here are some other strategies:
- Rather than simply informing them “you are not allowed to drive”, try to be emotionally supportive. Sympathise with their loss, agreeing that it is very unfair that they cannot drive, but reinforce that you have alternatives in place.
- You can emphasise it is the doctor or specialist who has said they cannot drive.
- Sometimes letting them know how proud you are that they’ve made such a responsible decision can help them feel better.
- Hiding car keys or disabling the car in some way should be a method of last resort. However, if the person is unsafe to drive, has had their licence revoked and still insists on driving it may be necessary to consider.
It is never appropriate to be a driving ‘co-pilot’
Having the person with dementia cease driving can be such a difficult issue to address that carers may be tempted to be a ‘co-pilot’. This is never a safe practice and should not be used.
Support your person to take action
- Support your person to inform their driver’s licensing authority and insurer of their diagnosis.
- Use the Dementia and Driving Decision aid. It’s available in English and in other languages.
- Plan how to get to usual activities and appointments when the person no longer drives.