ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The decision of when seniors should stop driving is one that many families struggle with. It can be complicated when seniors develop memory problems or dementia.
A study by the University of Michigan found that the majority of older adults with cognitive impairments are still driving, despite concerns raised by caregivers.
“People who have cognitive impairment can have interruptions and problems with all of those issues,” said Dr. Lewis Morgenstern, a neurologist at UM. “And they can also have problems making the right decisions at times, and that can impair their ability to drive safely.”
In a study of more than 600 older drivers, researchers found 61% of those with cognitive impairments were still driving and about a third of their caregivers were concerned.
“The concerns are that there may be people who have cognitive impairment, who should not be driving, that their cognitive impairment is severe enough that they may be a danger to themselves or others,” Morgenstern said. “However, there are many people who have some mild cognitive impairment who are probably perfectly safe on the road.”
Some of those in the study had made changes to limit their driving, such as not driving at night or only driving short distances.
“It’s very important to have these conversations early when everybody has the cognitive ability to understand the importance of safety while driving,” Morgenstern said. “So, there are something called Advanced Driving Directives, which you can do yourself or you could work with an estate planning attorney.”
In Advanced Driving Directives, you can set points to re-evaluate your driving or even designate someone else to make the decision when it’s no longer safe for you to drive.
Morgenstern said having a signed document can server as an important reminder of your wishes as memory problems progress.