Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dementia behind the wheel

Melissa Healy, LA Times, writes that the American Academy of Neurology has new guidelines on cognitive impairment and driving.

Hold the jokes—yes, everyone out there is impaired.

Seventy-six percent of recently diagnosed dementia sufferers still pass a driving test.

There is no test that measures risk.

Physicians should give the cognitive tests and also consider the driving record.

Also—does the patient avoid driving at night or on the freeway—this avoidance behavior can be a warning sign.

Patients should also ask caregivers about the person’s driving. (Caregivers do tend to downplay problems, the Academy said. Sure—they don’t want to have to take the person everywhere.)

Asking the person is not a good way to go. In one study, 94% of those with mild Alzheimers said they were good drivers, but less than half of this group could pass a test.

I was in the hairdresser once when an old couple came in. In the course of chatting with the husband, I learned he was almost blind. “She can’t think,” he chirped, “but she can drive, so I do the thinking and she does the driving.”

I shuddered.

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