Can my mom continue to drive if she taking Aricept?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I asked my mom's primary doctor about Aricept since my 88-year old mother has lately declined in her mental abilities. I'm not sure whether this is the beginning of Alzheimer's or possibly dementia. The doctor said if he prescribed that medication then he would have to write up that she has Alzeimer's and she would not be able to drive. Right now she just drives to a couple places a week- never at night, when it's busy or on the freeway. Is it true that she would no longer be able to drive? I've read personal accounts on the internet where people claim their driving improved on Aricept. Thanks for your help.

Expert Answer

Elizabeth Dugan, a Fellow of the Gerontology Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston, is the author of Driving Dilemma: The Complete Resource Guide for Older Drivers and Their Families.

Driving is regulated at the state level, so it depends where your mother lives. But, yes, some states do terminate a driver's license once diagnosed with dementia. Among experts there is a lot of controversy about this because diagnostic equipment is so advanced that we can diagnose someone much earlier in the disease (when symptoms are quite mild) and they may function well for some time despite the diagnosis.