Aug 26, 2009

How do you know when to take the car keys?

For how long can the person with dementia safely drive? That is one of our toughest questions (the other toughest one might be when does one go to assisted living). Dwane was, as I understand most - if not all - persons with dementia, very resistant to considering he might not be able to drive. For a long time I have been doing virtually all the driving when we are go somewhere together. I was concerned about Dwane's driving, but I did not want to subjectively and arbitrarily say he could not drive. Also, I had to be careful because it is easier for me if he can run to the end of our lane for the mail, and I did not want to be influenced by what is more convenient for me. So, I made arrangements for him to have a driving evaluation by an OT (occupational therapist) who specializes in driving evaluations. It is an out-of-pocket expense of about $150.00, but it was extremely worth it. The results made Dwane very angry, but far better the anger be toward an outsider than me. I have also noticed that Dwane's first response is almost always to be angry, but then he integrates the information and deals with it. The driving evaluation results were that Dwane was still fine to drive in our rural area which is very familiar to him. (YEA!) But, that he could no longer process multiple factors, so interstate and city driving were to be avoided. The OT also gave us strategies to implement for more safety; such as, being sure to make a head check instead of just relying on mirrors. (ok, I have to say here I had been saying that for months!) The OT also suggested that Dwane do the driving and I the riding on a periodic basis to continue to monitor how he is doing.

It was a tremendous relief to have a skilled, objective opinion for such a difficult issue. I realize that the time when he cannot drive will come, but I am relieved it is not yet. The evaluation also seems to have made Dwane more aware to be very alert and to "give up" his conviction that he is still just as good a driver as he always was.

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