The Nevada Task Force on Alzheimer’s (TFAD) is diligently working to update recommendations for the care and protection of persons living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. A topic that arises every year is dementia and driving. 

Often family members count of DMV to remove driving privileges but his might only happen when a license is being renewed or after tickets and/or an accident. DMV officials have told me how it important it is to keep our roads safe, but they are not physicians ready to diagnose dementia. 

Even with a doctor notification of impaired cognition, they do not go door-to-door to revoke a license. Families count on the DMV as it is easier to live with a loved one who vents anger toward a government agency than it is to be vented upon and blamed in frequent tirades. After all, when one can no longer drive, there goes a portion of independence while at the same time dependence is increased. 

People tell me, “Oh, well, it’s only to go have coffee with friends.” This is wonderful for social interaction vital to maintaining brain health, but what about the safety of other drivers, pedestrians, not to mention vehicles parked along the way. 

Public transportation also pops up as a recommendation for those who can no longer drive. You guessed it. These ideas come from those who do not live in rural Nevada where taxi and bus services are minimal, if they exist at all. Even when public transit is available, drivers need to be trained about guarding individuals with diminished cognition. Things like figuring out the right payment, exiting at the correct stop, and being able to return home are essential.

When my sister Carole at the early stage of Alzheimer’s failed the driving test (missed stop signs, lights and swerving), she had my brother-in-law. After multiple seizures, Rich could no longer drive, they had the good fortune of living in a metropolitan area with many transportation options. At first this worked perfectly, but as Carole’s confusion increased so did her problems on the van service. Getting in became challenging; getting out was worse. Then came seatbelts, puzzlement, and fright. 

The day her agitation led her to kick the seat and upset the driver, my sweet sister was kicked off the bus. This, in spite of the fact, that her trip was from home to the Alzheimer’s activity center, and home again.  Only begging and pleading let her back on again.