The number of drivers in South Florida who have cognitive impairment is frightening. As part of my job in home health care I meet with families who are facing the problems associated with the care of a dementia patient. (I use the term dementia to cover the spectrum of Alzheimer’s, memory loss or confusion) I frequently find that the family allows the impaired person to drive, even though they acknowledge the cognitive losses.

I want to share some “horror stories” in this article to help convince families that driving and dementia do not mix.

“Culpable Negligence”:

An elderly gentleman was sentenced to 15 years in prison due to a car accident. He killed a mother of two small children when he lost control of his car. His defense was that he had an epileptic seizure while driving. The court found him guilty of culpable negligence – driving even though he knew that he shouldn’t. This scenario could also apply to an Alzheimer’s patient, especially when the family is fully aware of the diagnosis. A person with memory loss could easily confuse the gas pedal with the break pedal, especially when reacting to an emergency.

“Risking the Life of the Spouse,,:

The healthy spouse is motivated to allow the dementia patient to drive out of necessity. One wife recently explained, ‘My husband always did the driving. I never learned to drive Now he doesn’t know where to turn, so I direct him while he drives. We only drive locally.” The sad part of this lifestyle is that both spouses are at risk.

“Litigation Can Destroy.Your Estate”:

I know of one Alzheimer’s patient that was sued for causing an auto accident. She was driving down the wrong side of the road when she hit an on-coming car. The size of her estate is the primary reason she is being sued. Her adult children wish they had taken away the car sooner. The only levity in her situation was during her deposition when she said, “What accident? I’ve never been in an accident! I’ve been driving since before you were born and my record is perfect!”

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