Alzheimer's Caregiving

Frequently Asked Questions

16. Should a person with Alzheimer’s continue driving?

Driving is a complicated task. A driver needs be able to see and hear clearly, pay close attention to other cars, traffic signs and signals, and pedestrians, and react quickly to events.

(Watch the video to learn more about how Alzheimer's can affect driving.To enlarge the video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner. To reduce the video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)

A person with mild memory loss may be able to drive safely sometimes. But, he or she may not be able to react quickly when faced with a surprise on the road. This can lead to dangerous results. If the person's reaction time slows, then you need to stop the person from driving.

The person may be able to drive short distances on local streets during the day, but may not be able to drive safely at night or on a freeway. If this is the case, then limit the times and places that the person can drive.

One sign that someone should stop driving is new dents and scratches on the car. Another sign is taking a long time to do a simple errand and not being able to explain why, which may indicate that the person got lost.

Drivers with more advanced memory loss may forget the most basic rules of the road, like stopping at stop signs. A person with Alzheimer’s who is confused about where he or she is going can be unpredictable to other drivers, causing dangerous situations on the road. When the person can’t think clearly and make good decisions, he or she should stop driving.

As the disease progresses, driving will become too dangerous for the person to continue to do. People with severe dementia should not drive. Having a passenger guide someone with dementia through the driving task is not safe, either.

One way to find out if a person is still competent to drive is through observation. You should watch the person with Alzheimer’s drive and get a sense of how it feels to be with that person at wheel. Observing the person driving will reveal things the person can do well and things the person may not do as well at the wheel. If as a passenger you experience a certain level of discomfort when the person with Alzheimer’s is at the wheel, this could be a sign that the person’s driving skills are declining and that they may need to limit or stop driving.