Geriatric health experts don’t necessarily prohibit senior motorists from driving after they’re given a diagnosis of dementia. However, as the disease begins to progress, these seniors may be at a higher risk of having accidents.
During the early stages of dementia, a person who’s suffering from this condition may still possess adequate driving skills. He or she may be able to run errands and go on short trips. However, as the dementia begins to progress, several symptoms of the condition, like memory loss, may begin to worsen and, as a result, the person’s driving skills start to become impaired. There may be visual-spatial disorientation and the person may suffer from decreased cognitive function.
As the dementia progresses, it affects memory and the person may lose his or her sense of direction while driving. As a result, the person may get lost. Incidents involving senior drivers getting lost while driving abound in the state of Florida, which uses the Silver Alert system to locate senior drivers who are lost while driving.
One study conducted by the University of South Florida focused on the Silver Alert System and its role in locating missing drivers. In many cases, the seniors were found in very dangerous situations, like sitting in their car while parked on a railroad track. Only about 40% of seniors in Florida were found in the county where they were reported missing. As many as 10% were found in a different state, and 15% were found in dangerous situations that had the potential to result in an accident.
Family members of senior citizens have a big role to play in reducing accident risks for these seniors. It’s not always easy to ask a senior to give up his or her car keys, but sometimes it must be done in order to protect the senior and keep other motorists safe.