For many people diagnosed with dementia, the initial worries focus around loss of freedom. For example, how long will someone be able to drive? When will they become unsafe, and more importantly, how will they know?
Driving Mobility is a nationwide network of independent disabled driving organisations that provide a range of mobility assessment services and advice. For those with dementia it offers a chance to assess and reassure the driver that they are still roadworthy, and help to brush up on skills that may have become rusty over the years.
We spoke to Rosalind Gay, a neurological physiotherapist and mobility clinician at North East Drive Mobility (part of the Driving Mobility network) in Newcastle upon Tyne, about the process of assessing drivers, and how often those with dementia diagnoses should be assessed.
‘It is very much dependent on the individual person, how their cognitive processes
are affected and the impact this has on driving,’ said Gay. ‘Multiple factors are used to make the decision, for example age, sex, type of dementia, cognitive status and severity of co-morbidity, functional ability, medication, past driving experience, driving performance during the driving assessment etc.’
Once the DVLA are aware of a driver’s dementia diagnosis they will usually restrict a licence to one year, so this is obviously a good time to get retested.
‘We would also advise clients/family if they notice a change in their condition to make a self-referral to return for further assessment,’ noted Gay.
So what if a driver fails an assessment?
‘After an unsuccessful drive, the client will be advised to stop driving immediately,’ said Gay. ‘The client will be advised to surrender their licence and send a copy of the assessment report to the DVLA. A copy of the assessment report is also sent to the client’s GP. If we have any concerns that the client is unwilling, or unable to surrender their licence to the DVLA, we have a duty of care to forward the report direct to DVLA.’
The organisation offers plenty of support for those drivers who may need to start thinking about giving up driving. They can give advice and help on alternative ways to get around, from mobility scooters to community transport (Dial-a-Ride, etc).
‘We try to prepare clients for driving cessation when they are still safe to drive as inevitably they will have to stop driving at some point and if they are not prepared this can have a significant impact on their wellbeing,’ said Gay.
There are 20 driving assessment centres covering the whole of the UK, many of which include independent charities and NHS centres that offer professional information and assessment so disabled and elderly people can gain or retain independence.
Find out more at the Driving Mobility website here.