Can a Test Determine When an Older Adult with Dementia Should Stop Driving?

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How Can a Test Determine When an Older Adult with Dementia Should Stop Driving in Palm Beach, FL


As dementia symptoms progress, they can interfere with a senior’s ability to drive safely due to changes in mental and visual acuity. Although vision testing can be used to evaluate much of the risk, until recently, it has been difficult to tell when dementia symptoms may prevent a person from making sound decisions in the driver’s seat. Now, seniors and their families can benefit from a new test called the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale, which can shed some insight on when it might be time to give up the keys.

How the Test Works

The CDR is a series of questions asked by a trained health professional during a structured interview. The questions pertain to a person’s lifestyle habits as well as his or her ability to perform mental and physical tasks and to recall pertinent information. Using the answers the senior provides, the test administrator will then assign a numerical score that ranges from 0.5 to 3. Typically, a doctor will recommend a senior stop driving once he or she reaches a score of 2 or higher. 

A Score of 1

Aging adults who score a 1 on the CDR test fall into a gray area that requires further evaluation of their ability to drive. Some experts have suggested older adults who score a 1 on the test should stop driving immediately, but approximately 75 percent of seniors who have mild dementia are able to pass a driver’s test, and a subjective assessment made by a physician could be inaccurate in terms of an older adult’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. One study found seniors with mild dementia who used GPS systems were able to navigate driving routes safely.

Evaluating Driver Safety

In addition to having their parents evaluated with the CDR, it’s important for caregivers to ride with their senior loved ones to observe their driving habits. Failing to stop at traffic signals and ignoring speed limits are two warning signs a senior with dementia may need to give up the keys. Anger, frustration, and getting lost on familiar routes are also indicators it may be necessary to make other transportation arrangements.

For older adults who are no longer able to drive safely, a home caregiver can be a great resource. If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of senior home care Palm Desert, FL, families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

Determining if Seniors Can Continue to Drive

Seniors want to retain their independence by driving for as long as possible, and determining how long a senior can drive safely is often a cause of conflict between seniors and their loved ones. The Clinical Dementia Rating scale has become the standard for many professionals in the senior care field and offers a neutral third-party opinion on the subject. Combining self-evaluations with the CDR has proven to be an effective way to determine if a senior is safe to continue driving after a dementia diagnosis. 

Driving may not be the only safety concern you have about your parent, so you may find extra peace of mind by hiring a professional caregiver. Families looking for top-rated at-home care providers can reach out to Home Care Assistance. From respite care to specialized Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care, there are many ways we can make life easier for seniors and their loved ones.

Drivin Alternatives

Naturally, many seniors are reluctant to move into the passenger seat because it marks a loss of independence. However, providing transportation alternatives can reassure them that they’ll always have ways to get to their destinations. Family members and other caregivers can work together to create schedules for driving older adults to and from appointments. Additionally, many communities have senior shuttles that take older adults to popular destinations such as shopping malls.

Even when families have the best intentions, caring for a senior loved one with dementia can be challenging. Fortunately, Home Care Assistance is here to help. We are a leading provider of dementia care. Palm Desert families can take advantage of our flexible and customizable care plans, and our caregivers always stay up to date on the latest developments in senior care. To create a customized home care plan for your loved one, call Home Care Assistance at (760) 345-0001 today.


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