Driving is often one of the first obstacle that families face when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia. In the very early stages of dementia, many people maintain the ability to drive. Since dementia is a progressive illness, this ability will eventually wane. Deciding when that ability has diminished causes great distress in many families.
When a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or early dementia is made discussions about driving cessation are imperative. When families wait until driving has already become impaired to start discussing the problem, they are often met with extreme resistance. Families have several options for handling this situation.
The family may be able to convince the elder to undergo a driving evaluation. This evaluation is best done by driving evaluations designed to test possibly impaired drivers. The test done by the DMV does not really test the ability of an impaired driver. Some evaluators automatically report their findings to the DMV if the client fails the test. Other evaluators keep the results confidential. In any event, the senior may respect the findings of the test in determining whether to give up driving.
Another option is having a conversation with the treating physician. Sometimes patients will listen to the advice of a physician much better than they will listen to the advice of family members.
When cognitive impairment is particularly pronounced the family may be able to resolve the problem by replacing the car keys with a non-working set or disabling the car. These options are generally preferable to having arguments with a person who lacks the ability to reason.
Lastly, anyone concerned with the ability of a driver may confidentially report the driver to the DMV by filing a form 72190. Any person can make such a report and the reports are confidential. After receiving the Medical Reporting Form, the Department conducts an investigation to ensure there is cause to initiate a review of the driver. If cause is shown, the driver is advised they are under medical review and are asked to provide medical information from their physician to the Department. Once received, the information is provided to the Department’s Medical Advisory Board. After review, the Medical Advisory Board provides a recommendation regarding the individual’s ability to drive. This recommendation may be to:
• Require additional information from the driver;
• Require the driver to re-take the driving test; or
• Revoke/deny a license.
If a license is denied/revoked, the driver may request an administrative hearing to appeal the decision.