Planning to stop driving
Discussions about driving are usually emotional and require planning. You know the person you support better than anyone and you may be able to anticipate what their reaction to stopping driving might be.
Start discussions as early as possible and use your knowledge of how they typically react to difficult conversations to help plan a strategy.
- Some people with dementia are attuned to 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 important. If the person with dementia can voluntarily reduce driving, agree to participate in an assessment, or make other arrangements for transportation themselves, it can help to ease the transition to stopping driving.
- This document from the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada gives helpful tips to support the decision of when to stop driving, and how to talk about it.
Discussions about driving
Prepare what you are going to say if you plan to talk about driving. Emphasizing the impacts on others, for example if they have an accident, may appeal to their ‘better nature’. Sometimes telling them the fact that their insurance may be void or they could face prosecution if they were in an accident are necessary.
It is important to approach the subject gradually and provide support for their feelings and offer alternatives to driving.
Some people may become defensive
When the issue of driving is brought up, some persons with dementia may become defensive. Sometimes an authority figure or someone to act as a moderator may be needed to lead these difficult conversations. The person’s family doctor, nurse practitioner, specialist or a respected friend or family member may be the right person to bring up the topic.
At The Crossroads is a website and booklet that help families build conversations about dementia and driving, including topics such as how to build a plan to stop driving.
‘We Need to Talk’ is a free short online seminar that guides care partners, friends or family through conversations with older drivers regarding ceasing or limiting driving.
Here is a video for care partners about driving and dementia. If you scroll ahead in the video to minute 1:29, they discuss how to begin a conversation with the person with dementia about driving, beginning with asking them how they are feeling about driving.
If the person with dementia tries to continue driving
Sometimes, even if a drivers license has been revoked, the person with dementia may try to continue driving. They may not recall that they should not drive, and may need a gentle reminder.
- Rather than simply informing them “you are not allowed to drive”, try to be emotionally supportive. Validate their feelings, agreeing that it is unfair that they cannot drive, but reinforce that you can find other options for transportation together.
- You can emphasize it is the doctor or specialist who has said they can no longer 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 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.
Plan how you will bring up the topic of driving
- Start by asking how the person with dementia feels about driving.