Driving With Dementia

Leah Health Guide
  • One might ask: Should someone with dementia continue to drive? The answer should be based on a case-by-case basis. For someone like me who has vascular dementia with moderate to severe short term memory loss and who is still highly functional, I believe the answer is YES. However, driving can have its problems...


    Parking lots are the bane of many. If one is lucky, the rows are marked with a big letter (these lots are few and far between). In lieu of a big letter, one must look around for any kind of symbol...or a light pole...or the basket return... However, one must be careful which landmark or symbol is chosen. Here is an example of what can happen: Last week, I went to the grocery store and parked purposefully in line with the door and directly across from the basket return area. Very satisfied that I would have no trouble locating my car, I did my shopping. An hour later, I came out of the correct door and headed in the direction of the basket return-only, there WAS no basket return...ANYWHERE! Every basket return areaq had been removed during the short time I was in the store!!! (I suppose the parking lot was going to be re-surfaced.) Now what are the odds of that happening? Lesson learned-use only stationary permanent objects!

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    The most important thing to do when parking in a large lot is to consciously figure out where you need to go when you come out of the building. I stop before going in the door and look back toward the car. In my mind, I go through the directions ("Come out, walk past the big pole, turn right, walk past 15 cars and look to my right...") If need be, I will write it down or put it into my Palm Pilot. I have found that counting cars is really helpful when I have to park far away from the shops.


    Another problem area with driving is finding one's way to one's destination. Even with common places, I have to mentally go over the route in my mind before starting out. I must say, there is one piece of apparatus which has become like my right hand to me-the GPS, or Global Positioning System. We have a Garmin which uses three satellites to triangulate my location. It's a breeze to program and gives excellent directions. I feel very secure using it. And, I know that all I have to do-wherever I am-is to input HOME and it will get me there!!!


    Now, that's important! I love being able to input an address and know that I will get there if I follow the directions given. This is especially helpful when I go to my cottage in Northern Neck, Virginia. Our cottage is located in rural area, and anywhere I want to go is usually a good half hour or more away. Since I don't travel the area frequently enough, I get very confused as to which direction to go. With the GPS, I can program in my destination and get there with ease. Then, I hit COTTAGE, and I get back to my little home-away-from-home. The GPS is a godsend for those of us with short term memory loss!


    Another device I use is part of my car. We purposely bought a Chevrolet Impala because it has an OnStar system. We do have to pay monthly for the service, but my husband and I feel it's well worth the peace of mind that it provides. Besides having a hands-free telephone, OnStar can provide emergency help and has its own global tracking device. So, in reality, if I got myself lost, I could call them to find out where I am! Better than that, if I was really lost, someone else could call OnStar and find out where the car is and get me help, if needed.


    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    Driving is not out of the question for a highly functioning individual with dementia. It is important, though, to be cognizant of where you are and where you are going. With a little effort and some helpful equipment, like the GPS, driving should not be a problem.


Published On: April 06, 2010