Driving and Safety Issues
There can be a lot of different issues related to safety that you will be thinking about at different points in your journey. You may be asking yourself questions like:
- What are the different things to think about when it comes to safety? How will I know when I need help?
- Who can help us understand safety hazards at home?
- I am concerned about medication safety, who can I ask for help?
- If I am worried about my driving, or my family member’s driving ability, what do I do?
- I am concerned about cooking and nutrition, I don’t think it’s safe to use the stove and I worry he/she is losing weight, what do I do?
- Is he/she safe to live alone?
- What do I do if I’m worried there might be abuse?
A good resource to start with is Living Safely. This is a booklet written by people living with dementia in partnership with the University of Waterloo’s, Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program. This booklet addresses safety concerns related to driving, staying alone at home (short term or long term) and health and medications.
You may also find the information we provide on Wandering Behaviours, Medication and Falls Prevention on other pages in this site helpful.
Your Alzheimer Society can provide you with helpful skills and tools to understand changes as the disease progresses, the effect on day to day life, and what to think about in terms of safety.
You will need to plan for the day when you or the person with dementia will no longer be able to drive. A diagnosis of dementia does not automatically mean you need to stop driving. However, for everyone that ages and particularly those with a diagnosis of dementia, we need to consider and plan for an eventual retirement from driving. While most people make a sound decision to stop driving when they are no longer able, some continue to drive when at risk. Coming to the realization that you can no longer drive requires careful thought and the support of family and health professionals. This is a difficult decision to make. This is why it is important to prepare for eventual driving retirement ahead of time. Having to act suddenly will leave you ill-prepared.
- For persons considering retiring from driving: The CAA used decades of experience in road safety, along with expert assistance from the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, to design a toolkit for seniors and their loved ones. To find out more about senior driving safety, tips on talking about driving and safety, alternatives visit: https://www.caa.ca/seniors/
- For persons with dementia and their caregivers: Driving and Dementia Toolkit for Patients and Caregivers: A helpful resource for persons in the early stages of dementia and their caregivers. It may also be useful to health professionals.. Consider the Hartford advance directive for driving cessation that you can give to your family or doctor (page 24 of the Driving and Dementia Toolkit or www.thehartford.com/alzheimers
- There are local driving assessment centres that can help you determine when it might be time to stop driving.
It is important to determine alternative means of transportation that may be available to you
- Family and friends
- Taking a taxi - they are actually cheaper and less hassle than owning and driving
- Explore services offering home visits: doctor, hairdresser/barber, laundry pick-up, etc.
- Meal delivery service (such as Meals-on-Wheels) or chef-at-home service
See the local resources section for other options.
- The Safe Living Guide. Produced by the government of Canada. Tips to stay safe at home with helpful checklists for medication, nutrition, exercise and more.
- Living Alone. Alzheimer Society of Canada discusses tips and strategies for living alone when a person has dementia.
- Falls Prevention – see Managing Health Conditions
- Medications – see Managing Health Conditions section
Getting a professional opinion about safety risks and strategies to keep as safe and independent as possible can be helpful. It is not uncommon for loved ones of persons with dementia and the person with dementia to have different opinions regarding the safety risks in and outside the home. It is always important to consider the person with dementia’s previous values and beliefs, particularly regarding tolerance to risk, particularly when living alone. What would they have chosen 10 years ago for themselves at this stage of their disease?
Speak to your loved one’s family doctor or other health care professional for advice and a referral to a specialized service if looking to plan for a person’s current and future risk management needs.
- If you or the person with dementia are experiencing a number of different physical health issues, you may want to speak to your family doctor about being referred to a local service to have a geriatric assessment – this assessment is for people aged 65 and over who have a variety of concerns such as:
- Recent changes in physical, mental or functional abilities, changes in memory and/or mood.
- Safety concerns - physical, psychological, social, environmental, that may include driving, falls risk and medication management.
- If you or the person living with dementia is experiencing a change in mood or if the behavior is becoming challenging and affecting safety at home, you may want to speak to your family doctor about being referred to specialized behavioral support services:
- These services generally include:
- Global assessment of mood, cognition, function, safety and behavior
- Non-pharmacological recommendations (such as risk management strategies, how to introduce services/care) and, as needed, pharmacological recommendations to optimize function, minimize risk at home and decrease caregiver
- Wandering – see Managing Behaviours
- Medic Alert© Safely Home A monthly paid subscription program offered by the Medic Alert© Foundation of Canada. Personal identification bracelets and pendants to identify medical needs in the event you may need assistance when out in your community.
- Lifeline: Philips Lifeline Senior Living Solutions is a paid service. They provide a complete line of resident safety products, software and monitoring services specifically designed for Senior Living communities
If you are concerned about potential elder abuse, it’s crucial to access help right away. Abuse is more than just physical - it can also be emotional and even financial. This is a really important area with regards to safety. As such, when we think about safety, we need to think about ways to recognize and prevent physical, emotional and financial abuse.
Care & Support - Safety
Alzheimer Society information sheet on dementia and driving
Having difficult discussions about driving
- For caregivers that are unsure when or how to discuss retiring from driving:
- FAQ (University of Waterloo)
- We need to talk: Family conversations with older drivers