It's important to recognize that the person with dementia's ability to keep driving affects both of you. It's common to experience a wide range of emotions that can be unpredictable, and everyone is different. Although some people with dementia have very strong negative feelings about giving up driving, others are accepting or relieved. Likewise, you may find yourself having both negative and positive feelings about it.
Giving up driving can be very emotional because driving fulfills
different needs for different people. As a result, giving up driving can
have a serious impact on the person with dementia's sense of identity and self-worth.
For example, driving can be connected to numerous aspects of their identity and lifestyle such as:
Here's what some people with dementia have to say:
You need to take care of your own emotional needs on an ongoing basis, not just the needs of a person with dementia. Try these ideas:
Loss of driving is just one of the many significant transitions you may
face as the person with dementia’s disease progresses. You may feel like
you are on an emotional roller coaster. To cope, it’s important to
recognize that it’s normal to experience a range of emotions such as:
Once you have identified what you are feeling—for example, sadness,
anxiety or anger—then to cope, don’t try to avoid the emotion by simply
continuing on as if you aren’t having these feelings. Instead, allow
yourself to feel the emotion. For example, to heal feelings of loss, be kind to yourself by allowing
yourself to grieve. Signs that you may be experiencing grief include:
Far too often family/friend carers take it upon themselves to meet all the transportation needs of the person with dementia. But they should not have to do it alone. Identify people in your life who may be able to provide support. For example:
Here's what some family members have to say:
If you are finding it difficult to handle how the person with
dementia is reacting to the idea of no longer driving, empathy can help.
Recognizing their emotions can increase understanding of their
situation. Driving fulfills different needs for different people. As a
result, giving up driving can have a serious impact on the person with
dementia’s identity and self-worth. For example, driving can be
connected to numerous aspects of identity and lifestyle such as:
As a major life change, giving up driving can lead to a range of emotions even for people without dementia. For people with dementia, reactions can be even stronger due to poor memory and lack of insight that is often a part of dementia. The lack of insight into the dangers of driving with dementia makes it especially hard for them to appreciate the limitations being imposed. Also, their emotions may change over time. To help the person with dementia cope with the range of feelings they may be experiencing now—or in the future—try these ideas:
Not only is it common for people with dementia to experience a range of
emotions with regard to giving up driving, sometimes their emotions can be so
strongly negative that it prevents them from agreeing to stop driving.
In other cases, people with dementia may recognize that their
driving abilities are declining and they are at ease with the decision
to give it up. Sometimes they may even feel relieved because they find
driving makes them anxious.
By understanding their feelings you will be in a better position to
help them stop driving, as well as to cope with their emotions. Try to
relate to what the person with dementia is going through by recognizing
that typical emotions include:
Here's what various emotions may sound like:
Source: Alzheimer Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County
No matter what emotions the person with dementia is experiencing, an
effective way to help them cope is by acknowledging and validating what
they are feeling. For example:
To help offset the loss of identity and purpose that the person with
dementia may be experiencing, encourage them to try new activities. For example, attending adult day centres or volunteering with the Alzheimer Society can provide
opportunities to help others and restore their feelings of self-worth.
Use this circle of support worksheet (click here) to help build a support network. It was produced by The Hartford.
See how a family/friend carer handles a person with dementia’s emotional reaction when the conversation about giving up driving does not go well.
Source: Alzheimer's Association
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