Rightly or wrongly, we have all gotten upset or pointed the finger at ederly drivers. It is an issue that has received a lot discussion. The American Academy of Neurologists (AAN) recently addressed this issue and they released new guidelines for drivers with Alzheimers and dementia.
The guideline recommends doctors use the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale to identify people with dementia at an increased risk of unsafe driving. The CDR provides a tool for clinicians to integrate information from caregivers and from direct examination of the patient to develop a comprehensive view of the dementia severity.
Evidence shows driving skills deteriorate with increasing dementia severity. “While patients with mild dementia, as a group, are higher-risk drivers, more recent studies report that as many as 76 percent are still able to pass an on-road driving test and can safely drive,” said Iverson. “Faced with these facts, we needed to provide guidelines for doctors caring for these patients to identify those people at higher risk of unsafe driving, without unnecessarily restricting those who are safe drivers.”
Caregivers and family members play a role in identifying warning signs from unsafe drivers with dementia. These include: • Decreased miles being driven • Auto Collisions • Moving violations • Avoiding certain driving situations, such as driving at night or in the rain • Aggressive or impulsive personality traits
“It is important that the decision to stop driving be directed by a doctor who is trained and experienced in working with people with dementia and their families,” Iverson said. “Doctors should be aware that assessing driving ability is a complex process. More than one source of information is needed to make a judgment. In some situations, a dementia specialist may be needed.”
Doctors, patients and caregivers must also know their state laws, since some states require that doctors report any medical conditions that may impact their ability to drive safely.
The guideline is an update of the 2000 American Academy of Neurology guideline on driving with dementia.
I will be watching the Illinois legislature closely to see if they adopt these new guidelines. Click here to read the AAN’s complete press release.