Guidelines that help determine whether or not people with Alzheimer’s disease should drive were recently published in The American Academy of Neurology.
Researchers based their guidelines on 14 scientific studies from medical databases and literature that covered three distinct categories of research: accidents in drivers with Alzheimer’s; studies involving on-the-road or simulated performance tests; and studies that evaluated how well Alzheimer’s patients can process what they see when driving.
The risks of driving for people with Alzheimer’s were compared to the risks found in other groups of drivers, such as 16-to-21 year olds, or people driving under the influence of alcohol.
The guidelines made several recommendations:
* Performance evaluations should be made for people with slight cognitive impairment, or a Clinical Dementia Rating of 0.5
* Reassessment of patients every six months due to the likelihood that level of dementia will increase.
* More research to determine whether some people with dementia can drive safely, especially if driving were restricted to a certain location or if they remained off the highway.
* Further research into the technological possibilities of assisting Alzheimer’s patients to drive.
People with a 0.5 level of dementia typically show signs of consistent forgetfulness and slight impairment in activities at home and with hobbies. However, they have no problem handling personal care needs such as dressing and hygiene. The risk for these patients is similar to that of 16-21 year old drivers, but it is higher than the risk posed by other elder drivers.