Moderate-Stage Dementia and Still Driving? 4 Drastic Measures to Take Now

No one can safely drive as dementia progresses from the mild to moderate stage -- not even someone who has moments of lucidity or who sticks to familiar routes driven for years. By this point in dementia, there's little room for equivocating or justifying.

Erosion in judgment and other thinking skills make safe driving impossible as dementia progresses. Even if the person seems to know by autopilot what to do behind the wheel, this is deceptive. A driver with dementia is a hazard to other drivers and pedestrians on a par with a drunk driver.

Don't wait until it's too late -- an accident has occurred -- to take action. It's time to consider these drastic measures:

  • Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles. Cite your concerns, including specific examples of poor driving, and give your contact information. In some states, you can register a complaint about an unsafe driver anonymously. An evaluation of driving and possible revocation of the license will follow. Find out the state laws where you live.

  • Get the person's doctor involved. In many states, a doctor treating someone for Alzheimer's disease has a legal obligation to order the patient to stop driving and/or to report the person to the DMV.

    SEE ALSO: Find Memory Care Near You

  • Take the keys and/or disable the car. Ask a mechanic how to do this. Or have the tires "stolen" (removed).

  • Sell the car if you have legal authority to do so. At this point in dementia, someone should have power of attorney to manage or comanage financial matters such as this.


about 1 year ago, said...

I am currently going through this stage with my wife. Her specialist told her that she had to give up driving as she was on Aricept. She had to do it by law otherwise she would have been reported. She did so very grudgingly, and ever since I am the one getting blamed for "taking her licence away" Not much fun! Whenever we go to a shopping centre, she can never remember where the car is parked. So imagine what she would be like driving, very scary.


about 1 year ago, said...

My wife was very angry when her Dr told her she must hand in her driving Licence. However the Dr would have been in big trouble if she had an accident. It is against the law here to drive even with early stage dementia. My mother in law had an accident when she had been diagnosed with dementia, and did not have clue how it had happened. It is so dangerous.


about 1 year ago, said...

My mother's second husband insists he have total responsibility for her care (mid stage). He is 90. They are very much in denial and don't agree with doctor assessments. We call them "cement heads" and hope they both fail their driving tests. It is frustrating and scarey. We take them when we are allowed. Sigh


over 2 years ago, said...

I have an someone I know who says she cannot stop her spouse from driving while he is in med stage alzheimers. This past fall he insisted in driving her to town after dark , came out on the highway going the wrong way and she was screaming to pull over while head lights were coming toward them. She has not control of this man. Yet, his son in law is a local deputy and they do not stop him from driving either.


over 2 years ago, said...

I once took care of an elderly man with severe dementia, but he was physically fit. He frequently would have me drive him to the DMV and take his test to get his liscense. When he would get his rejection slip he never remembered the last one. Sometimes the agency would ask me to chase him in my car when he was driving his own, which was insane. How could I stop him? Finally the agency told me to cut his tires. I found an ice pick and also disconnected the battery and left the lights on. But when the family asked the agency about it, the agency refused to tell the family they had asked me to do it. I think expecting the caregiver to do what the family and agency wont do is really unfair to both the person with dementia and the caregiver, but it happens all the time.


over 2 years ago, said...

The one writer, who took such wonderful care of her Mom and now is almost broke. This is a big risk and issue for caregivers with a sense of loyalty and love. It is happening everyday. Any suggestions? Caregivers need help. God Bless.


over 2 years ago, said...

Just want to say I love Join the conversation! It makes me feel I am doing something correct and I am not living through the looking glass. That at this point I am blessed with a wonderful man who gave up his small plane willingly when he realized he was not on top of it anymore. Same with his driving. We have to do things thoughtfully but remember it is not our right to place other people at risk. God Bless, this disease is not for sissies! Neither is getting old.


over 2 years ago, said...

This is a very important safety issue, these incidents really occurred. My friend's neighbor would not have up his keys or driving. He left early one evening to go to the local IGA and never returned. He ended up 60 miles a way on a dark cold evening in someone's drive, sitting there all through the night. The people owning the property came out in the morning,asked who he was and what he was doing there. The 80 + man could not tell them who he was or where he was from. The couple asked to see his drivers license, called the sheriff of our county. They came picked him up and escorted back to our county. He was promptly admitted to the care center and is still there. His wife was placed with their daughter for care. Another incident was when my friend's husband insisted he drive her 4miles to town to the local hospital since she was not feeling well. She said she could do it but he pulled his car in front of hers and said he was driving. This man has 5th stage dementia or alzheimers. When they started up the four lane highway he was driving on the wrong side of the road in the wrong direction. She the wife, convinced him to get off to the side of the road until it was safe to turn around. He still insisted he take her. When they left the hospital she told him "either I drive or I call someone to come get me because I am not riding with you" This is a serious issue for elderly people with dementia or alzheimers. Another man was moved from his long time home in the country, he now does not recognize his wife but drives around looking for his real home. It is only a matter of time until he cannot find his way to his new home. it is good to take the tires,hide the keys Yikes


over 2 years ago, said...

With my father, we knew it was time to stop his driving on the day my husband witnessed him making a u-turn across 4 lanes of busy traffic at a really busy intersection. Our solution was to have his eldest son, living in another state, 'borrow' daddy's truck. Eventually he forgot about the truck, as he no longer saw it parked behind the house daily. My father-in-law missed the brake pedal and mistakenly pressed the gas pedal one day. He drove into the corner of his house, destroying his car and taking out a huge area of bricks along with it. The car problem was solved, but he still drove limited amounts in his small truck. When he required full time assistance and supervision, we 'hid' his keys. The truck remained in sight and offered reassurance to him that he still had it, even though he was not able to drive it. Eventually we sold the pickup, but this has been over a 4+ year period. We were blessed, in that no one was injured due to either one's driving. Independence is really difficult to lose.


about 3 years ago, said...

I started driving my parents everywhere, and then just started keeping the keys with me. Okay, it was God's sneaky way of getting me to go back to church. Father has passed on now, and every once in a while mother mentions that she could probably still drive. When that comes up, I remind her it was her ideal for me to drive her everywhere. Furthermore, watching my parents and their driving, and deciding I should do the driving, and having to go through convincing them I should do the driving, I have told my daughter that when it is time for me to stop driving, that she should ask me for my keys, and I will give them to her. If your parents or your spouse are still driving, try to bring the subject up with driving with them now so that they would be more likely to listen to you when it's time. And talk with your children, about when it is time for you to stop, and I agree right now that you will stop driving when it is time for you to do so.


about 3 years ago, said...

For those who feel bad about keeping a loved one with dementia from driving, consider this. My mother-in-law became a bit paranoid as her Alzheimer's progressed. When my father-in-law passed away, she wanted to hang onto his old gun and sleep with it under her pillow. Her children did not allow this -- she would have shot US if she'd had the gun handy because she startled every time someone came in the door (even if they'd just gone down the driveway to get the mail). She was pretty mad about not having that gun and talked about it a lot. But she just had to live with it because it would have been too dangerous for her to keep a gun. Likewise with the keys to the car. If it's too dangerous then they just have to be mad until they get over it. It's unlikely they'll be perfectly happy all the time anyway. One person I knew wanted the sky to turn orange because she was tired of its usual blue color. When that didn't happen, she got pretty upset and stayed that way for several days. Well, so what? The sky's not going to turn orange just because somebody wants it to. And we can't all drive while demented. That's just life.


over 3 years ago, said...

Wow! Boy, did this hit home, especially LillyLynne and her lack of support. Even after my husband crushed our 12-foot gate, busted out the headlights on everything around here, drove the riding lawn mower up under a porch deck with him still on it (it got wedged on a timber before it decapitated him), and then took off in our only decent vehicle with the pet dog in a rage one day, the best advice the MD's little darlin' RN could give me was "when he gets back, take his keys." Really, punkin', do you think that will work? My husband is 75, but has been a lifelong fitness fan, and can still kick the crap out of a man half his age. "Take his keys?" I had to put out a silver alert and hope to God he didn't hurt anybody, then contact DMV. For anyone feeling reluctant to "take away his independence," consider that you could lose your house and everything you've worked for in one single lawsuit if the independent driver in your life kills someone else. Call DMV now. It's not going to get better. If he's your personal chaffeur for vacations (mamolilli), consider flying. It's better than being homeless after a lawsuit.


over 3 years ago, said...

Dont think its quite getting to that stage, but that info was well worth knowing and noted.