Dementia and Winter Driving

With another Manitoba winter already here, it’s important to think about driver safety.

While this is important for everyone, it is especially important for families impacted by dementia. Most people with early symptoms of dementia can continue to drive safely and competently, but it is important to be aware of potential changes in driving patterns.

Some changes to watch for include:

  • Forgetting to signal, use mirrors properly or check blind spots
  • Getting lost in familiar areas
  • Being unable to correctly judge distances
  • Failing to follow road signs correctly or use good judgement to make safe driving decisions
  • Getting into small accidents or hitting curbs
  • Difficulty paying attention

If you are noticing changes in driving patterns that may seem unsafe, here are a few things you can do:

  • If able, have a conversation early on about future driving plans for when abilities change. Consider using “what if” situations
  • Be a good listener and understand their transportation needs, whether that’s outings to the store, appointments, or social activities
  • Talk with other passengers, friends or family about unsafe driving incidents
  • Offer alternatives to driving, like food delivery services or carpooling. Also consider local transportation options, like car services or transit
  • Discuss alternative and safer driving options, like alternatives for highway driving or safety options for driving at night
  • Consult people with special knowledge. You can collect information about driving courses, visit a family doctor for a medical check-up or talk to a doctor separately about your safety concerns
  • If you start to notice anything of concern, consider an evaluation by a health care provider

If you care for someone living with dementia who will be driving this winter, it’s best to plan ahead. Winter driving challenges like poor visibility, skidding and getting stuck, pose a challenge to the most experienced drivers. It’s also a good idea to check weather forecasts and any road condition alerts. The safest strategy is to avoid driving in harsh weather conditions.

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