Dementia: When driving a car becomes a risk

Motorists with dementia become a risk in road traffic. Already in the early stages of dementia, affected people are no longer reacting as quickly as they used to and can no longer correctly assess distances and speeds. "Personally, I would definitely advise a dementia patient not to continue to drive himself," explains Dr. Horst Christian Vollmar from the Medical Knowledge Network of the University of Witten / Herdecke.

The stronger the dementia, the higher the risk of accidents

The risk of accidents increases with the duration and severity of dementia. Assessing the driving ability of the patient is therefore a responsible task for the supervising physician. However, to convince the patient to stop driving the car in the future is not easy. "Mostly, neither the person affected nor the relatives address the subject of their own accord," says the general practitioner Vollmar. To renounce driving means for many older people a significant loss of independence and self-esteem.

Problems driving a car with dementia

Often, there are also considerable practical problems for those affected: If the supermarket is not around the corner and can not be reached by public transport, if the children live further away or the friends meet in the evening in the neighboring town for leisure activities, shopping and difficult to organize participation in social life.

"Especially with older couples often only the husband has a driver's license.If he is ill, often wants the wife also not believe that her husband can no longer afford a car service," said Vollmar. In most cases, it is also very difficult for the doctor to realistically assess whether a patient is still fit to drive.

However, some specific questions can help. Thus, the doctor should clarify together with the patient and the relatives whether the patient has recently lost more time, whether he had more accidents or "near-accidents" or whether he often had technical difficulties with the vehicle.

If the patient loses his or her orientation and is clearly impaired in his reactions, he is clearly no longer fit to drive. "The doctor should first appeal to the insight of his patient," advises Vollmar. Often it makes sense to offer further help, such as the indication that dementia patients have a claim to recognition as severely disabled.

Report to the Road Traffic Office

If a patient is clearly no longer able to drive a car and poses a risk in traffic, he has to give up driving. That's the law. In extreme cases, a message must be made to the Road Traffic Office. "Because of the medical confidentiality, it is always better if the relatives take over this task," advises Vollmar.

In case of unclear cases, the medical officer or a special traffic medical department can be involved. There, the patient can officially test whether he is still fit to drive. In general, however, he has to bear the costs of these tests himself.



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