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The Danger of Dementia Behind The Wheel

Tuesday, September 20, 2016By Richard Alexander

A recent study published by the Journal of the American Geriatric Society looked at the correlation between cognitive testing of people with early stages of dementia and safety behind the wheel. According to the report, there is no specific test that can predict if a person with dementia is safe behind the wheel. Researchers do point out that tests involving a variety of different cognitive skills might be more helpful in determining safety for drivers in the early stages of dementia. According to a Reuters Health article, drivers with dementia are up to eight times more likely to be in a car accident when compared with other senior drivers.

Cognitive Tests and Driving Ability

No less than 28 different studies regarding cognitive tests and driving ability were analyzed. Many of the studies relied on reports from caregivers, but some of the research involved on-road tests among drivers with dementia. Unfortunately, researchers were unable to find one single test involving cognitive ability as a driving safety predictor. In studies involving a variety of different cognitive skills tests, researchers were able to see driving safety predicted on a much more consistent basis.

Monitor and Review

Since a diagnosis of dementia doesn’t necessarily mean one is no longer safe behind the wheel at that particular moment, it’s important for loved ones, family members and healthcare providers to monitor and review their senior’s cognitive skills as they relate to driving on a regular basis.

Cognitive Testing for Senior Drivers

At this time, there is no standardized way to test the safety of a person with early stage dementia behind the wheel. Researchers are currently working to develop a collection of tests that could standardize the process. Loved ones and caregivers are encouraged to lookout for red flags like lack of orientation, vision impairments and other age-related and dementia-related cognitive deficits that can impact a person’s ability to safely navigate the roadways.

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