Driving and dementia

Should you continue driving following a diagnosis of dementia?

Dementia is a broad term used to describe a progressive decline in cognitive ability, and includes symptoms such as forgetfulness, difficulty carrying out simple tasks and poor judgement. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease

Driving requires quick reflexes and decision making. While most people choose to stop driving following a dementia diagnosis, some don’t. However, there will come a time for everyone with dementia when driving is unsafe and not possible due to impaired thinking and reaction times.

Here’s some tips about driving and dementia:

1. Talk to your GP about whether you can still drive

If you have been diagnosed with dementia, you must talk to your GP about whether it’s safe to keep driving or not. While driving provides independence, it can be unsafe if your brain isn’t functioning as it should be.

Your doctor has a legal duty to make an assessment of your ability to continue driving. They may refer you to an occupational therapist for a driving assessment. This assessment is different from a routine driving test. Doctors are legally obliged to let Waka Kotahi (NZ Transport Agency) know if they think a person is unfit to drive but likely to carry on driving.

2. Tell key organisations 

Let Waka Kotahi (NZTA) and your insurance company know about your diagnosis. They will give you advice on what you need to do. Some insurance companies may have strict rules about a diagnosis of dementia, so you may not be covered if you have an crash.

3. If you feel unsafe, stop

If diagnosed early on, you may come to your own realisation that it’s time to stop driving. If you feel unsafe or as though you can’t react quickly if needed, it could be time to stop. It’s best to stop driving before a crash occurs or your cognitive ability declines sharply.

4. Plan ahead

If you think it’s time to hang up the car keys, find out about other means of transport or financial help you may be entitled to. You could organise for friends or family/whānau to help you out with things like grocery shopping.

Learn more

For more information, visit Waka Kotahi (NZ Transport Agency) and Alzheimer’s NZ.

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.