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Published on: December 24, 2012
by Dr. Mark Brody for The Palm Beach Post:
Question: My husband has just been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease. Can he still drive?
Answer: Dealing with driving and patients with Alzheimer’s disease is a difficult issue because driving is such a routine part of typical everyday life. Losing the ability to drive often makes people feel that their independence is threatened, and can result in depression and frustration. However, the consequences of an accident caused by poor cognition could be fatal to the patient and to others.
At our practice, patients and their caregivers often think that they should still retain their drivers’ license because, even though they are having trouble with their short-term memory, they feel that they are able to drive without any difficulty.
However, driving is a very complex task that involves more than simply knowing how to put the keys in the ignition and operate the turning signals.
Driving also requires making quick decisions, using good judgment, predicting behaviors of other drivers, and being able to stay focused while many other distractions are present.
It is not uncommon for patients, even in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, to have deficits in judgment or attention that may affect these very necessary skills. If you have any questions or doubts AT ALL about your husband’s driving ability, we would recommend that your doctor consider referring him for an evaluation at a certified driving safety center as soon as possible.
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