Dementia and Driving

driving_picDriving is something most adults take for granted.  It gives us freedom, flexibility and independence. In a vast land like Australia, with our luxury of space, driving is also a necessity for many of us. We need to drive for practical purposes, like grocery shopping and also for social purposes, to see friends and family.

Now. Imagine receiving a diagnosis of dementia. Then in the days and weeks that follow, as you struggle to adjust to this new reality, imagine the people who care for you, or medical professionals, suggesting to you that you can no longer drive. Another body blow at an already fraught and devastating time.

The decision about when to stop driving is a difficult one and needs to be approached with sensitivity and the involvement of the driver with dementia. Today, we offer you a range of resources which may help you have this discussion with someone with dementia as well as providing you with more information on driving with dementia. This post is a guest blog by Alzheimer’s Australia Vic resident Driving and Dementia specialist, Lucy Foley. You can read more about Lucy’s professional background and Alzheimer’s Australia Vic’s Driving and Dementia project at the end of this post.

YouTube: Driving with Dementia, Professor Joseph Ibrahim

This utterly compelling animated short film explores the myriad practical, emotional and social implications of asking a person with dementia to stop driving.  Professor Joseph Ibrahim provides great insight to medical professionals, carers and concerned family members about what surrendering driving privileges really means.

Discussion paper: Dementia and Driving in Victoria, Alzheimer’s Australia Vic

AAV_Dem_DriveWith the increasing age of the population, and the subsequent increase in prevalence of dementia, there will be a growing number of older drivers who will experience impaired driving ability. However, although there is evidence that dementia increases crash risk(1), it is also internationally accepted that not all people with dementia are incompetent drivers, particularly in the early stages of the condition.(2)

The ability to drive safely relies on memory, attention, decision-making, planning, reactions,vision and other sensory processing and these will be affected to various degrees.(3) Each person’s experience of dementia is individual.

This paper presents the results of a survey with 139 family carers and friends of people with dementia, and 19 people with dementia. It describes their awareness of VicRoads regulations in relation to dementia, experience with on road driver testing, impact of ceasing driving, and on alternative mobility options.

Footnotes 1, 2, 3 refer to page 1 – Executive Summary of Dementia and Driving in Victoria, April 2013.

Article: Dementia and the impact of not driving, Kate Swaffer


Kate Swaffer, image source: Australian Journal of Dementia Care

Kate Swaffer, a person living with Younger Onset Dementia discusses one of the key issues around driving and dementia. Everyone agrees that there is a need to stop driving at some point after diagnosis of dementia, the harder question to answer is, when?

Kate’s honest and engaging piece offers real insight into the stresses and regret of giving up driving, whilst retaining a clear-eyed perspective on the impacts driving and dementia can have for the broader community.

This article is sourced from the Australian Journal of Dementia Care website.

Booklet: Driving, Dementia and Mobility, RACV

RACVDriving_DementiaA comprehensive and clearly written booklet for people with dementia, carers and health professionals in Victoria.  This helpful guide covers all the basics including legal and licensing requirements, what do after a diagnosis, strategies for staying mobile and connected after stopping driving. It also includes contact information for different services and support available for people with dementia who are still driving, and those who are no longer driving.

You can order up to 10 copies of the print version of this booklet by contacting Alzheimer’s Australia Vic Helpline on 1800 100 500, if you require more than 10 copies, please contact RACV directly.

YouTube: RACV Dementia, Driving and Mobility Guide

This 2 minute video is a great introduction to the booklet listed directly above.

Website: VicRoads

VicRoadsPeople with dementia, particularly in the early stages of dementia, can be capable drivers, however, because of the nature of the condition, at some stage they will need to stop.  The VicRoads website includes information about what you need to do after a diagnosis of dementia, specifically, the legal and licensing requirements.

The website also outlines the medical review process, which is how VicRoads determine a person’s fitness and ability to keep driving.

Finally, you can also access information about Occupational Therapy Driver Assessments, and contact details for Occupational Therapists via VicRoads.

Resource: At The Crossroads, The Hartford


A great guide for people with dementia and carers.  This publication is written sensitively and thoughtfully and encourages early planning and a person-centered approach to decision-making on when to stop driving.  At the Crossroads focuses on the emotional challenges of license loss and mobility loss and provides excellent resources for people to work out individualised strategies and solutions for dealing with these challenges.

About the Project

Alzheimer’s Australia Vic are working in partnership with RACV on a 2 year driving and dementia community education and awareness-raising project. The project aims to support people living with dementia and their families and carers to make informed decisions about the current and future driving ability of a person living with dementia, and make a successful transition to non-driving.  The project is launching a kit in February 2014, which will have a range of resources for people with dementia, carers, families and health workers. The project will also be delivering community information sessions on driving and dementia throughout metro and regional Victoria from March 2014 onwards. We will release information about how to obtain the kit, or attend an information session closer to our launch date so keep an eye on the website.

About our guest blogger

Lucy Foley, Alzheimer’s Australia Vic’s Project Officer for Driving and Dementia, is a social worker with a background in community development, who is interested in transport and mobility. Lucy can be contacted about the project via our main phone number 03 9816 5799. If anyone wants to talk about driving and dementia issues they are currently experiencing themselves or with a loved one please phone the National Helpline on 1800 100 500.

2 thoughts on “Dementia and Driving

  1. Reblogged this on longtermcarehub and commented:
    Driving is more challenging for seniors and all the more if they are suffering from conditions such as Dementia. This is a sign of independence and therefore boosts your confidence. So just imagine if one day you can no longer drive because you’ve succumb to a condition such as Dementia. This is a sensitive topic to talk about so it’s best to discuss this with your loved ones using a sensitive approach. It’s hard for them to give up driving since this is a concrete sign of their independence, so if there are ways to help them continue driving then introduce them to these ways in order to help them bring their own vehicle as they age. For more tips in driving and the elderly, read this:

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