Road Safety News
 

IAM highlights concerns about driving with dementia

Thursday 3rd April 2014

A decline in cognitive abilities caused, for example, by the onset of dementia, is the greatest concern that families have about elderly relatives driving, according to the IAM.

In a survey of almost 1,300 people conducted on behalf of the IAM, 46% of respondents admitted to being worried about this issue.

The IAM says that more than 800,000 people in the UK currently have dementia - 17,000 of whom are under the age of 65 years – and this number is expected to increase to more than one million by 2021.

The IAM says that while people with dementia may still be able to drive safely for some time after it has been diagnosed, because of the progressive nature of the disease there will come a time when they have to give up.

Simon Best, IAM chief executive, said: “Staying healthy is the simplest way to ensure you are fit to drive, but an independent and objective driving assessment will also help people make the right decision at the right time.

“Experts warn that the numbers suffering from dementia will continue to grow and it is important drivers seek advice before using their cars. 

“Families and friends need to be aware of the early warning signs of dementia and seek advice and medical help as soon as possible.”

The IAM has published details of what it calls “signs that an individual no longer has the skills needed to drive safely”. These include: difficulty judging speed, distance and space; getting lost on familiar roads; straying across lanes or hitting kerbs; failing to observe road signs and traffic signals; and becoming angry or confused while driving.

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I remember giving a talk to a group of dementia carers some years ago. Two things stuck with me, firstly there were an amazing number of known dementia patients who were still driving. Secondly, the carers (usually the wives of male patients) told me that as the dementia progressed, their husbands gave up work, social contact and hobbies. The one thing they all clung to was the function of driving and independent mobility. DfT have openly stated a lack of interest in this area, so it's up to Local Authorities to deal with this. In Norfolk we are working closely with Public Health to address the issue. We have lots of old people, so we won't be running out if clients any time soon...
Iain Temperton

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