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!

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    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.

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    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