Dementia and Driving: Seven Signs It’s Time to Stop

It’s a hard situation to face, but there may come a time in your life when you need to have a candid conversation with your aging parent and relieve them of their car keys. If they’re suffering from dementia or have showed signs of slowing mental faculties, they may pose a tremendous risk to themselves or others behind the wheel of a car. Taking away their keys may not be easy, but it’s often necessary.

How do you know when it’s time to retire an aging person’s driving privileges? There are many telltale signs that can alert you to developing issues and dangerous situations. Let’s have a look at seven of the most common:

  1. You can invest in a personal GPS monitoring service for their vehicle and review the data. If they’re driving odd routes or appear to be lost, it might be time to have a conversation. GPS data can be very telling, showing you more than just a missed turn.
  2. If a trip to the store or post office should only take 20 minutes, but takes your aging parent upwards of an hour, you may want to consider their independence. Leisure is one thing; confusion is another.
  3. Have you noticed mysterious scrapes, scratches and dents on the car that weren’t there before? It’s a sign that things like depth perception, reaction time and situational awareness are failing in your parent.
  4. Ask your parent where they’re going before they go out. If they seem uncertain about their destination or why they’re going, it might be best to tag along and do the driving yourself. These little slips now can be deadly on the road.
  5. Inspect the vehicle for little things. Is there fuel, or are they riding on empty? Did they close the gas cap door? Are the mirrors in a suitable position? Are there any lights on the dash lit up? If someone is focusing hard to overcompensate for failing mental faculties, these little things could be easily overlooked.
  6. If your parent is having general trouble remembering things around the house—like pet names, where they put things or what they were doing—it’s best not to let them get to the car. Keep an eye out for these signs to avoid driving issues altogether.
  7. Finally—and this is a worst-case scenario—if your aging parent has already been in an accident or even a small fender-bender, be sure not to let them drive any longer. Not only is this a sign of slowing mental faculties, it can also be a source of anxiety for a senior that causes them to overreact the next time they’re behind the wheel.

Taking away a person’s keys—especially a parent’s—is not an easy thing to do and can be a heated topic for a senior who isn’t ready to give them up. Nevertheless, it’s important to protect them and everyone else on the road if you start to see any of the signs and symptoms listed above. Invest in a personal GPS monitoring service, keep the lines of communication open and be observant of anything involving your elderly loved one and their vehicle.