Johns Hopkins Health Alert — When Is It Time To Stop Driving?

I have great news! I had my 6-month checkup with my neurologist this past Friday. Quite a good visit. My mini-mental status exam improved by 3 points from earlier this year. Obviously, he is pleased as is Pam and I. After much discussion, he feels the gardening has helped a lot but more importantly, he emphasized the combination of Namenda and Aricept as being the main factor in my improvement. "Your underlying problem is still there but you are improving slightly from the plateau you’ve been on. I still have cogwheeling (The ‘pullback,’ jerky or ratcheting effect in an arm or leg that the doctor perceives when moving a patient’s rigid limb, thought to be related to tremor superimposed on limb rigidity), tremors, etc. He asked if I wanted to be placed on anti-Parkinsonian drugs to which I responded no. If I can avoid any extra drugs at this time the better it is. He agreed and decided to wait until it’s absolutely necessary to take them. So, gardening it will be along with watching food intake and increasing exercise!

Johns Hopkins Health Alert     When Is It Time To Stop Driving?

For most of us, driving is not only a symbol of our independence, but a practical tool of everyday living. So it’s no surprise that taking away a patient’s driving privileges is among the most difficult and potentially divisive decisions for the Alzheimer’s caregiver. In this Health Alert, Dr. Peter V. Rabins, Medical Editor of The Johns Hopkins Memory Bulletin, answers questions about driving and the Alzheimer’s patient.

Q. What signs should an Alzheimer’s caregiver watch for when determining a loved one’s driving competence?

A. While there are no set criteria for determining when a person with Alzheimer’s disease should be prevented from driving, there are warning signs. Keep in mind that in some states, driving privileges are based on the stage of the Alzheimer’s disease assigned by the physician.

The following are some common indicators that a person’s Alzheimer’s is making it difficult for them to respond safely while driving. Whenever you notice such problems, record the date and time when these behaviors occur, and discuss them with the person and his or her doctor:

  • Not signaling for turns or signaling incorrectly
  • Confusion at exits
  • Hitting curbs when trying to park
  • Parking inappropriately
  • Driving at inappropriate speeds
  • Delayed responses to typical and atypical situations
  • Getting lost along a familiar route
  • Getting unexplained dents on the car
  • Confusing the brake and gas pedals
  • Stopping at a green or flashing yellow light
  • Having near misses with pedestrians and other cars
  • Getting citations for poor driving
  • Having accident(s)

Q. When should a driving evaluation be sought?

A. If any of the above has occurred and the person will not voluntarily give up driving, then a formal evaluation by the motor vehicle bureau or private driving instructor should be sought. Most caregivers will restrict driving after a loved one has accumulated one or more of the warning signs listed above but many people with Alzheimer’s disease will deny any problems and, when asked to limit their driving or stop driving altogether, will be highly resistant. Some people who have the early stages of Alzheimer’s recognize that they are having changes and go in for testing on their own initiative. I always encourage and support this.

An evaluation by a driver rehabilitation specialist can be of great value in helping to make the difficult decision of taking away the car keys. A driver evaluation will assess the components of driving that may be compromised by this progressive condition. Areas assessed should include: attention, processing speed, visuospatial functioning, decision making, judgment, planning, memory, and behavior.

To find a certified driving rehabilitation specialist in your area who can perform such an evaluation, contact Driver Rehabilitation Specialists, ADED, 2425 N. Center Street #369, Hickory, NC 28601; Tel: 828-855-1623, or toll-free in the U.S. and Canada: 866-672-9466. Email:


FREE Subscription to this Blog


7 Responses

  1. Loved today’s posting. Hearing such good news was a boast of happiness shared across the miles. Thanks for the lift.
    Jo Ann

  2. Hello David,

    This has made my day. Wonderful news.

  3. Wonderful news, David! Yes, a boost of happiness shared across the miles. I am so glad.

    I’m well into writing next book now, so only lift my head for certain items, and yours is one of them.

    Blessings on blessings,

  4. Congratulations, David! Thank you for sharing the good news with us. That’s a booster for us, who may not have any signs of illness yet but need to keep moving and exercising body and mind.
    Go on with your garden work -it’s not only beneficial for you but for everybody who enjoys its beauty. By the way, have you posted a picture of your garden? That would be nice.
    Hugs from Uruguay,

    • Raquel…………..I’ve been taking pics as I go along. Just haven’t had a chance to upload them to my computer. But I will post some of them.


  5. Take a look at this site that our family has come up with to help each other keep update on our father who has dementia. Take a look at

  6. Dear David,
    That is wonderful news. I’m so happy for you. Our move to Irvine, California went really well. We adapted quickly and now I feel ready to start looking for contacts so that I can spread my words about Adopt A Caregiver.
    has just been put up, there are still a few glitches, but it’s a go.
    Wishing you good health and a Happy Holiday.
    It’s my birthday, and I will be 78.
    Love and kisses Helene

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: