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A Test May Be Able to Determine When Seniors with Dementia Should Stop Driving

By Mary-Frances Walsh, 9:00 am on

Driving is one of the freedoms of independent living seniors want to hold on to as long as possible. If your senior loved one has some form of dementia, however, there will likely come a time when it’s time to take the keys. While determining that point is often a judgment call, there is a test that may be able to help seniors know when it’s best to find other forms of transportation for their own safety.

Using Dementia Symptoms as a Guide

There is no standard assessment for determining when it’s time for seniors with dementia to stop driving. Yet some Sonoma County elder care and medical professionals recommend that seniors stop driving when mild dementia symptoms are first observed. The argument against this approach is that many seniors with dementia are still capable of safely driving, with one study suggesting that three-fourths of patients with mild dementia can pass a driving assessment test.

Clinical Dementia Rating scale

Another option for evaluating driving abilities being used by some health professionals is the clinical dementia rating scale. The CDR scale tests driving abilities based on an assessment of daily functioning. Based on a score that can range from 0.5 to 3, the scale rates dementia functioning as:

• 0.5 to 1 for mild dementia symptoms
• 2 for moderate dementia symptoms
• 3 for severe dementia symptoms

When using the CDR score as a guide, health professionals typically give the go for seniors with mild dementia symptoms to continue driving. The recommendation for dementia patients scoring a 2 or 3, however, is to put the breaks on driving for the safety of themselves and others on the road. The so-called “gray area” is when seniors with mild dementia score a 1 rather than the lower 0.5 score. At that point, whether or not to stop driving again becomes a judgment call for seniors and family caregivers in Sonoma County.

If your aging parent has been diagnosed with dementia and needs help with everyday tasks, reach out to Home Care Assistance. As a leading provider of dementia home care in Sonoma County, we can ensure your loved one has the support necessary to remain safe and healthy in the comfort of home. Give us a call today at (707) 843.4368 and speak with a dedicated Care Manager to learn more.