A Difficult Discussion: Driving with Dementia

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Whether or not someone should continue driving with dementia is a difficult decision. This is one of the most stressful conversations that loved ones have while caring for a person living with dementia. The loss of a driver’s license relates to the loss of independence. Many loved ones are unsure of how to navigate this awkward discussion as they start to become concerned about the safe driving of a person living with dementia. 

Why is it important?

As cognitive abilities decline through the progression of dementia, when is the right time to bring up driving? How does a caregiver do it without damaging the relationship and causing an angry outburst?  Loved ones are hesitant because raising the topic can cause damage to the harmony of the relationship. However, there can be a sense of moral responsibility to ensure that unsafe drivers are not still on the road.  Many caregivers are unsure of what to do. Family doctors report that they often get this question from caregivers and that the conversations are awkward, emotional, and difficult. 

What to do?

Here’s the simple answer: in Alberta, anyone can report a concern about any other driver on the road. Most importantly, the report will be handled confidentially. Caregivers can breathe a sigh of relief, and complete the information needed to file the report. The report asks for basic information about the driver that may affect their safe driving. This includes name, address, driver’s license, date of birth, known medical conditions. The reports can be submitted electronically, or by mail, or by fax. 

What happens next?

The Driver Fitness and Monitoring Unit will review the report and identify what is required to determine the driver’s fitness to drive. The individual submitting the report may be contacted for more information. The Unit has the authority to require the driver to submit for a medical or physical exam, place special conditions or restrictions on their license, or to suspend the license.

The Traffic Safety Act in Alberta ensures that the confidentiality of the individual filing the report is protected. The process has been designed to ensure that individuals who have concerns about drivers will not receive push back from who the report was filed about. If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, or have concerns about any other driver who you believe might be unsafe on the roads, the report can be securely made confidentially. 

The Government of Alberta has a website about how to report a concern. If you would like to find out more information visit the following link: https://www.alberta.ca/report-a-concern-about-driver-fitness.aspx.