Alzheimer’s and driving

2017-11-16 06:00

SEPTEMBER 21 marked World Alzheimer’s Day, and people and organisations all over the world combined efforts to raise awareness about the disease.

A pertinent issue among Alzheimer sufferers is when to stop driving as while patients pose a threat to themselves and road users after being diagnosed, giving up the independence of driving is often a laden decision.

Mbango Valley Nursing Sister Sandy Mitchell also runs the Alzheimer’s, Dementia Support Group for the lower South Coast and says while in most cases the first thing is memory loss and forgetfulness other abilities may be affected by Alzheimer’s and varied from person to person.

Other symptoms include difficulty performing familiar tasks like occasionally forgetting why you came into a room or what you planned to say.

Also having problems with language, disorientation to time and place, poor or decreased judgment, problem with abstract thinking, changes in mood or behaviour and personality, a loss of initiative and sometimes feeling weary of work or social obligations

All these she said would affect a patients’ driving abilities. “Due to disorientation to time and place, people with Alzheimer’s can become lost in their neighbourhood, forget where they are and how they got there, and not know how to get home,” said Mitchell.

“We sometimes experience difficulty while trying to get them to give up driving as people are afraid to give up their independence. Families also do not want to make that decision,” said Mitchell.

In an article titled Alzheimer’s and Road Safety Arrive Alive argues that due to the sensitivity and the multiplicity of the effects of Alzheimer’s on patients and their families, the transition from driving should be done gradually working with the patient’s doctor and caregivers.

“Caregivers can reduce stress and increase their chances of success by relying on others for emotional support, transportation assistance, financial assistance or to meet other needs.

“They need to remember that family members tend to follow long-established patterns for making decisions.

“It is unrealistic to think that patterns will change when handling a difficult issue like driving safety.”

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