America’s Love Affair

Baseball, apple pie and mom…oh, and cars! These are quintessential symbols of America and our culture. Cars, especially, represent the American spirit on several levels, including ingenuity, invention, hard work and, of course, freedom. The vast majority of us own automobiles and if not, at the least, have a license to operate one. The auto industry is a large part of life in many major cities throughout the country, providing 1.55 million Americans with jobs. However, cars have a far greater impact on the mentality and psyche of us all. As mentioned earlier, cars and driving represent freedom. A freedom that we do not want to give up, at any age. This brings us to the topic at hand; Alzheimer’s and driving.

I’m sure we all remember finally getting our drivers license.  At the young age of 16, we were free to go where ever we wanted, without relying on a parent or other adult shuttling us back and forth.  Just driving around with one’s friends becomes an actual past-time.  It doesn’t take long from there to depend on a car for much more than joy rides.  We need them to go to school, work, the store, visit relatives, etc….they become a necessity.  Let’s face it, unless you live in the heart of an urban area, public transportation is scarce or, most likely, non-existent.

So,  how do you tell a parent or grandparent that they shouldn’t drive anymore?  Granted, Alzheimer’s is just one of several age related issues that may make it dangerous for an older adult to continue driving, but if someone is losing their sight, they understand the reasoning.  When it comes to dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, it can be a different battle altogether.  If the person in question is in the early stages of the disease, they may already feel a loss of control in many areas of their life.  This may cause them to  resist  and may even lead to anger.  Unfortunately, there is no set time frame that can be established after diagnosis, so family and friends will need to pay close attention for any decline or dangerous episodes.   Obviously, like most important personal decisions, the person with Alzheimer’s should be included in the decision making as much as possible.  Christine Kennard, Alzheimer’s and Dementia Expert, has written several articles for on Alzheimer’s related issues.  When it comes to driving, she suggests following these these tips.

Some General Safe Driving Tips:

  • drive shorter distances.
  • stick to familiar routes.
  • don’t drive at night.
  • don’t drive in bad weather.
  • don’t travel on busy roads.
  • avoid driving on weekdays or in peak traffic flow.
  • always try to use the same vehicle.


Do Not Drive If:

  • you’ve recently had an accident.
  • you’ve become lost when you are driving.
  • you have a recent traffic violation.
  • if your family and friends tell you your driving is no longer safe.
  • if you are told by your medical team or law-enforcement officers not to drive.

Getting a doctor involved early is always a good idea.  Having a professional, unbiased opinion will help ease the pressure from family and close friends and may sway the person with Alzheimer’s.

If you have any questions regarding this article or any other dementia related topics please call us to speak with one of our dementia experts.  We are here to help you and your family.

Have you had to confront a friend or family member about their driving?  How did you approach them? What did you say?  Have you been approached yourself? What was your reaction?  Please share your experiences with us and our readers. We look forward to hearing from you.

Natalie Pic

Meet the Author


Natalie has compiled over eighteen years experience providing outstanding care to people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In addition to being a certified Alzheimer’s and dementia care trainer, McFarland is a licensed continued education instructor for nurses and social workers through the Illinois Department of Professional Regulations. She has also developed several Alzheimer’s research partnerships. Included in those projects were Dr. Virginia Cruz, Ph.D., RN, Associate Professor of SIUE and Dr. George Grossberg, M.D., Medical Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Saint Louis University. Natalie is a graduate of Southern Illinois University.