DRIVING DECISION: Help is at hand for self-determination on  whether to keep driving, or not.
DRIVING DECISION: Help is at hand for self-determination on whether to keep driving, or not. photobac

Guide helps drivers with dementia

ARRIVING at the decision to cease driving after being diagnosed with dementia, before that decision is taken away from you, is being helped through a free guide.

The Dementia and Driving: A Decision Aid guide was developed by a team at University of Wollongong. Team member and occupational therapist Catherine Andrew said the guide empowers people who have been diagnosed with dementia to understand why they need to make the decision, how to make it and how to deal with choosing to no longer drive.

"There is going to be those people who want to be tested and go and do a driving assessment, regardless," Ms Andrew said. "And there are those that won't have the insight to stop driving. But, the guide is making a difference for the people that are thinking about it.

"The most important difference it makes is to get that conversation starting early. Someone who is diagnosed may still have the capacity to drive if they are diagnosed early enough.

Dementia is a very progressive; it happens over time. Someone might be safe to drive for six months, 12 months, two years.

"It's very useful if used early to get people thinking about what to do."

Driving require a range of cognitive and visual competencies including short and long-term memory, concentration, reaction, speedy decision-making, planning, judgement and visual-spatial awareness.

Ms Andrew has been assessing the competency of older drivers diagnosed with dementia for about 30 years. She found many of them were unwilling to accept her recommendation that they cease driving. As a result, she developed this guide where the person can be part of the conversation around competency. It can be also used in conjunction with a person's GP, carer and family members.

The guide takes the user through four steps - help clarify your decision, what you need to make your decision, weighing your options and what's next.

"The people from Dementia Alliance International, which is for people diagnosed with dementia, think this is important because it empowers those people to be involved in the decision-making," she said.

Ultimately, it will become unsafe for a person with dementia to drive. The guide gives that person control of their circumstances and helps them plan how to replace driving with other forms of transport before making the informed decision to retire from driving.

Dementia and Driving: A Decision Aid has also been translated into Vietnamese, Italian, Greek and Chinese.

A copy of the guide can be downloaded free from www.adhere.org.au/drivingdementia.html or by email to dementia-driving@uow.edu.au or phone 02 4221 4589.

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