Driving Even with Early Alzheimer’s Could Be Risky for Roanoke Seniors
By Chris Head
Dementia is unpredictable, even at an early stage. There is no telling what the patient will remember, or more so, forget. This is extremely true when driving.
Older people with failing memories often keep driving, but a new study suggests that the risk of Alzheimer’s patients getting lost, even on familiar streets, is greater than once thought.
There may be no safe period behind the wheel, even with early dementia, because the disease is unpredictable, Linda Hunt of Pacific University in Oregon tells HealthDay News.
An estimated 30 to 45 percent of Alzheimer’s patients continue to drive after diagnosis, HealthDay reported.
The study looked at media stories published between 1998 and 2008 that involved Alzheimer’s patients reported missing. Of 207 drivers who were lost while driving:
- 32 died
- 35 were found injured
- 70 were not found at the time the data was analyzed.
- Some had driven almost two days and covered roughly 1,700 miles while lost. Most had set off on routine trips.
“We all want to avoid an older person having a tragic ending,” Hunt said. She notes that passengers, other drivers and pedestrians also are at risk.
However, advocates for Alzheimer’s patients don’t believe driving privileges should be stripped away upon a diagnosis. “Our position is that a diagnosis alone is not sufficient to have someone’s driving privileges taken away because many people in the early stages can still drive safely,” said Elizabeth Gould of the Alzheimer’s Association’s national office. Driving needs to be monitored and evaluated by a professional, such as an occupational therapist.
The Mayo Clinic offers several warning signs for determining the best time to take loved ones away from the wheel. They include:
- Forgetting how to locate familiar places
- Failing to observe traffic signals
- Making slow or poor decisions
- Problems with changing lanes or making turns
- Hitting the curb while driving
- Driving at an inappropriate speed
- Becoming angry and confused while driving
- Confusing the brake and gas pedal
At Home Instead of Roanoke, we’re what you might call “fans” of the 40/70 rule: When you’re 40, or your parents are 70, it is time to start discussing plans for their old age and how they will be cared for, should a disease like Alzheimer’s ever set in. We believe the 40/70 Rule offers the best time to broach the topic of senior driving, which can be a rather touchy subject.
When dementia patients do come off the road, don’t worry. Home Instead CAREGivers offer transportation for running errands or basic trips around town. Just because Alzheimer’s robs an elderly person of their driving skills doesn’t mean they won’t be able to accomplish activities made easier by four wheels. Simply give our Lynchburg home care office a call at 434-385-0321.
Playgrounds are becoming popular for Senior Citizens.
By Betsy Head
Call it the Circle of Life: Playgrounds are becoming popular for senior citizens.
Yes, playgrounds (and we’re not talking Vegas!). And no, we’re not talking about the stations you see on walking trails that offer pull-ups and sit-ups and climbing either. Nope, we’re talking honest-to-goodness playgrounds, fenced off in the middle of a city and filled with colorful, fun equipment – just like the ones you’d see for kids.
They’re fun, but not just for fun. Each playground furnishing is designed for flexibility training, to improve balance, or simply get the joints and muscles and blood moving.
These senior parks are popping up throughout Europe and Asia. The first in London opened in 2008, followed by a second in the city’s Hyde Park earlier this year.
Still, there aren’t any of these geriatric playgrounds in the United States, from all the research we’ve seen. They’re not terribly pricy, either, and the ones that have popped up have drawn considerable media attention. The one in London’s Hyde Park cost $60,000, or about the price of a well-loaded SUV.
Barring crossing the ocean every day to go to London’s senior playgrounds, older Americans should, at the very least, be taking daily walks, using the stairs (if they can) or finding ways to keep their joints turning and blood flowing. Local YMCAs and gyms offer wellness programs for adults 50 and older to encourage regular senior exercise. Senior centers can also be a great resource. Go Googling for the locations of such places in your neck of the woods.
Regular exercise is important the more a person ages. Physically-active seniors are more likely to keep their independence as their balance, flexibility and overall health problems lessen. Regular exercise also helps prevent muscle and bone loss.
At Home Instead Senior Care, we believe that keeping an older adult’s mind, body and social life active can prevent or even reverse frailty, both mentally and physically. Our Get Mom Moving program includes ideas for keeping seniors (not just moms or women) engaged in life mentally, physically and spiritually.
As for playgrounds? Seems like it could be an easy purchase for your locality. Give a ring to your leaders and see if one could be included in a budget item.