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When should someone with dementia stop driving? This resource helps seniors decide

by News Desk
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Ron Posno enjoyed the freedom of driving.

He says that as a teenager, he fell in love the moment he sat in a family friend’s old Ford truck and started the engine.

“I loved it,” said Posno, 83, of London, Ontario.

But now, more than 70 years later, Posno has decided to hang up his car keys permanently. He said it was caused by two children on bicycles who unexpectedly passed in front of his car while looking over his shoulder.

“Well, it scared me, because if I had started, I would have run into them, no doubt.”

He knew he would eventually have to stop driving after being diagnosed with dementia in 2016.

“I don’t want to hurt anyone or get into a worse accident.

Diagnosed with dementia in 2016, 83-year-old Ron Pozno recently decided to stop driving. He was photographed on his 18th January 2023 in London, Ontario. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News)

Decisions can be emotional

Doctors say Posno’s decision to stop driving usually doesn’t happen to people with dementia.

Mark Rapoport, Ph.D., geriatric psychologist and acting director of geriatric psychiatry at Sunnybrook Health Science Center in Toronto, says that when dementia progresses to the later stages and driving becomes unsafe, a doctor can see it. said many.

“So we have to be bearers of the bad news that driving is over,” he said.

After years of difficult conversations with patients, Rapoport and colleagues at Sunnybrook, Baycrest Health Sciences, and the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging have created a new online resource.

A gray SUV stopped just behind a white sedan on a snowy road.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association of Canada, as dementia progresses, people are exposed to potentially dangerous driving behaviors, such as slow response times and ignoring stop signs and red lights. begin to be (Mark Mathuris/CBC)

they do it Driving and Dementia RoadmapThis is a website with information, videos, worksheets and other materials to help you understand the importance of stopping driving and when to stop driving. There is also information for caregivers on how to broach the subject.

Doctors say that the number of Canadians with dementia is expected to increase significantly over the next decade, so resources of this kind are desperately needed.

Listen | Dementia and Driving:

Driving and dementia: the tough decision to lock up

Driving is considered one of the last major measures of independence for older people. Having to give it up after being diagnosed with dementia is incredibly difficult, but experts say there’s help out there.

ever since Released in Octoberdoctors involved in the roadmap say it is popular with Canadians looking for more information. chose it As a trusted dementia resource.

Dr. Gary Nagley, professor of geriatrics at the University of Toronto and vice president of health services at Baycrest, said it’s much-needed information.

He says it can be very difficult to tell patients that they can no longer drive because it causes so many emotions.

“After having to do this, I’ve been fired multiple times by patients. It’s very difficult,” said Naglie, who helped draft the roadmap.

“It made me realize that people’s understanding of this issue is very limited.”

Why it’s time to stop driving

dementia An umbrella term used to describe conditions that affect brain function, often characterized by physical changes such as deterioration of memory, planning, judgment, language, and loss of coordination It is commonly diagnosed in people over the age of 65, but it can (and is less common) be diagnosed in younger people.

Canada’s population is aging and projections show an increase in the number of people with dementia. In 2020, he had 597,000 Canadians with dementia, according to. Canadian Alzheimer’s AssociationThat number is expected to nearly double by 2030.

A man is sitting in a car.
Posno has decided to stop driving because of dementia. Now his wife Sandy is driving around London like this photo of her on January 18th. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News)

Dementia is a chronic disease, and physical and psychological symptoms generally worsen over time.

Most people with early stages of dementia can still drive. However, as dementia progresses, they are exposed to potentially dangerous driving behaviors such as slow response times and driving through stop signs and red lights. Canadian Alzheimer’s Association.

Dementia can also affect a person’s memory, so they may get lost while driving. Vision also changes over time, which can make it difficult to back up into a parking space or gauge your distance to other vehicles, he said, Naglie.

As the condition progresses, he says it’s very important to discuss driving and other aspects of care early in the diagnosis.

researcher Indicated Naglie added that if people with dementia are included in care plans early on, “the results are much better.”

“We can’t keep doing what we’re not talking about. I’ve seen the consequences. I’ve seen the consequences. Not fun for anyone, terrible consequences. Adults with dementia ‘ said Nagriye.

A man in a mask sitting in front of a computer.
Mark Rapoport, Ph.D., a geriatric psychologist and acting director of geriatric psychiatry at Sunnybrook Health Science Center, will unveil his roadmap for driving and dementia on January 17th. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News)

Instead, we recommend using roadmaps to:

  • Expand the conversation about driving with someone with dementia.
  • Make a plan for when you won’t be able to drive.
  • Manage when people with dementia don’t stop driving.

All states and territories require doctors to report medical conditions that affect driving.

In Ontario, people with dementia may also be required to take what is called a driving assessment to maintain their driver’s license. Families and individuals can also request this medical and street evaluation.

“We are on their side”

Neremarie Hyde, an occupational therapist and program supervisor at St. Elizabeth Health Care in Toronto, is part of the evaluation.

She says the process isn’t always easy for older people with new medical conditions like dementia.

“They are generally very nervous all the time. Sometimes they get angry or frustrated that they have to do this. I’m on your side. [and] We want them to do the best they can,” Hyde said.

A woman sitting in front of a computer screen with some squares drawn on it.
Neremarie Hyde, an occupational therapist and program supervisor at St. Elizabeth Health Care in Toronto, demonstrates part of a functional driving assessment. (Keith Warren/CBC News)

For many people, driving isn’t just about getting from point A to point B, says Rapoport. Driving leads to a person’s identity and autonomy.

“This also portends other changes to come. This is one of the key transitional areas in dementia, much like preparation for the transition to long-term care,” he said.

Posno says he misses the freedom to hop in the car and drive to the hospital or grocery store.

“But do you regret what you have to do? No way.”

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