Medication for Dementia and Alzheimer: Driving Issues

Medication for dementia & Alzheimer's can ease symptoms, but proper diagnosis & planning are needed for proper care. Learn about the false sense of security it can create for patients & families.

Medication for Dementia and Alzheimer: Driving Issues
Safety First: Medication and Driving Considerations for Dementia and Alzheimer's

Medications designed to address dementia and Alzheimer's disease can offer welcome relief from some of the symptoms, but they also come with potential downsides. It's easy to believe that when a loved one, like my father-in-law (FIL), shows improvement thanks to these medications, all worries can be put to rest. However, the reality is far more complex.

Many of these medications can alleviate certain symptoms but do not halt the relentless progression of the disease itself. Sometimes, when symptoms ease, both the patient and their family may mistakenly assume that everything can return to the way it was before the diagnosis, before the noticeable symptoms, and before their world began to unravel.

Medications Used in Dementia

I suspect this is precisely what's happening with my in-laws. Ever since FIL started taking medication that has eased some of his Alzheimer's symptoms, he appears to think he's completely fine and that his condition won't deteriorate further. Unfortunately, my mother-in-law (MIL) seems to share the same sentiment. We had started exploring long-term care options for both of them, diligently researching various facilities, checking references, and assessing licenses. We were also considering alternatives, including in-home care through reputable agencies. MIL was on board with these plans, at least until recently.

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    It seems FIL's improved condition has convinced them that there's no need for any future planning. Just this past week, MIL abruptly changed her stance. She insists we stop looking into these options because, in her view, FIL is doing so well that they won't require any additional care. When I tried to explain that I merely wanted to be informed about the available choices in case the need for extra care arises or if FIL has to enter a care facility, she flatly declared, "That's never going to happen. He's fine!"

    But the truth is, he's not fine. He has Alzheimer's. Before the latest medication, he had reached the restless, agitated, and delusional stage of the disease. It's essential to understand that while this medicine may help alleviate some symptoms temporarily, it doesn't constitute a permanent solution. However, they both seem to believe that life can revert to the way it used to be.

    To make matters worse, we recently learned that FIL drove his car to the store. They ran out of milk and didn't want to "bother" the neighbor, who would undoubtedly prefer to be bothered than have FIL behind the wheel. They fail to recognize the risks associated with this, even though the stores he visits are located along a busy state highway, with two of them flanking a high school.

    Today, I took the step of emailing his doctor, urging the doctor to report FIL to the state and have his driving license revoked. I also found the state website's link for reporting unsafe drivers, including my FIL, and I didn't hesitate to submit a report. I even requested that MIL's license be examined if it's still valid. We'd rather they experience hurt feelings than cause a potentially life-threatening traffic accident.

    Driving and Dementia Is It Safe?

    Furthermore, we've learned that my husband's sister and her husband plan to visit next weekend to see the situation for themselves. While they may be in for a shock regarding the changes in FIL since their last visit, I fear that the medication's effects might mitigate the severity of his condition in their eyes.

    The issue of driving and dementia is a critical one, and safety must always take precedence.


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