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Can you drive with vascular dementia?

What to do if you’ve just been diagnosed with dementia — Dementia guide

Living well with dementia Staying independent Dementia activities Dementia and the home environment Looking after someone with dementia Dementia and your relationships Communicating with someone with dementia Coping with behaviour changes Dementia and end of life planning

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  • Have you just been diagnosed with dementia?
  • Spot the signs of dementia

Become a «Dementia Friend» Talk to an Admiral Nurse at Dementia UK Share your story in the Alzheimer’s Society Talking Point forum Contact Carers Direct Sign up for Dementia Information Service emails Volunteer for a study at Join Dementia Research

If you have just been diagnosed with dementia, you may feel numb, scared, and find it difficult to take everything in.

Give yourself time to adjust to what a dementia diagnosis means for you.

You may find it helpful to talk to a counsellor at a memory clinic, if a local clinic offers this type of support.

You can also contact the helpline of a dementia charity, such as:

  • Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456
  • Dementia UK Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678

If you can, share your feelings about the dementia diagnosis with family and friends.

When you feel ready, create an action plan for the future while you’re still able to make clear decisions for yourself.

Get assessed for care and support

Your local authority has a duty to do a care and support needs assessment to find out what help you need.

A care and support needs assessment is free.

To arrange an assessment, contact your local social services. Alternatively, a GP, consultant, or another health or social care professional can make a referral to your local authority, after getting your consent.

Services and support

Find out what services are available in your area, so you’re prepared and able to use this support if you need it.

Services arranged by local authorities vary between areas, but may include home care services, equipment, and adaptations for your home.

Some services, such as community nursing, are arranged by the NHS. Ask your hospital consultant or GP for details.

Charities such as Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia UK provide a range of services, including helplines, support groups, day centres, shopping services and home care.

Make a will

It’s a good idea to make a will if you have not made one already. This ensures that when you die, your money and possessions go to the people you choose.

A person with dementia can still make or change a will, provided they can show that they understand what they’re doing and what the effects will be. A solicitor can advise if this is the case.

Should you walk in front or behind a car?

Read more about making a will on our page about managing legal affairs for someone with dementia.

Put your papers in order

Make sure all your important papers can be found easily. These might include bank and building society statements, mortgage or rental documents, insurance policies, your will, tax and pension details, bills and guarantees.

Consider setting up direct debits or standing orders for your regular bills. This means they’ll be paid automatically from your bank account each month.

Claim benefits

Make sure you’re claiming all the benefits you’re entitled to.

In particular, check whether:

  • you’re eligible for Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance – find out more on our page about benefits for over-65s
  • your carer (if you have one) is eligible for Carer’s Allowance

Other benefits you may be eligible for include Income Support, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction and Pension Credit.

Choose someone to have lasting power of attorney

You can make one or more people an «attorney» to manage your affairs, including your money, property, and medical treatment, if it becomes necessary.

You can choose anyone you trust to be your attorney (usually a close friend or family member), but they must be over 18.

Find out more about power of attorney on our page about managing legal affairs for someone with dementia.

Advance care planning

You may want to make plans for your future care, called an «advance statement» and an «advance decision». These let your family and healthcare professionals know your wishes for your care if you become unable to make decisions (lack mental capacity) in the future.

Read more about advance statements and advance decisions on our page about managing legal affairs for someone with dementia.


A diagnosis of dementia does not necessarily mean you have to stop driving immediately, but you’re legally required to inform the DVLA and your car insurance company promptly.

The DVLA may contact your hospital consultant or GP for more information. It may also arrange to assess your driving or eyesight, to check you can drive safely.

The Alzheimer’s Society has more information about driving and dementia.

Take care of your health

It’s important to look after your physical and mental health when you have dementia.

To stay healthy:

  • talk to a GP if you feel you have low mood or depression. This is common in dementia, but there are treatments, such as talking therapies, that may help
  • eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • exercise regularly, such as walking every day, gardening, or doing tai chi
  • ask a GP if you would benefit from having a flu jab and pneumonia (pneumococcal) vaccine
  • have regular dental, eyesight and hearing check-ups

See a GP if you feel unwell. Problems, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), can make you feel more confused or agitated if they’re not treated quickly.

Does speed matter in a punch?

Create your life story

A «memory book» can be a way to stimulate your memory and reconnect you with your loved ones in the future.

Your memory book could include photographs, notes, and keepsakes from your childhood through to the present day. It can be a physical book or a digital version.

You may also want to create a digital or online playlist of your favourite music.

Dementia books on prescription

Reading Well Books on Prescription offer helpful information for people diagnosed with dementia, and their relatives and carers.

GPs and other healthcare professionals can recommend titles from a wide range of books about dementia.

The books are available for anyone to borrow free of charge from their local library. Some books might be available as e-books or audiobooks.

Page last reviewed: 27 May 2020
Next review due: 27 May 2023

How do I talk to Dad about his dementia and driving?

Home > Learn > The Basics > Alzheimer’s FAQs > How do I talk to Dad about his dementia and driving?

It’s one of the most challenging problems for family caregivers. What do you do when your family member living with dementia still insists upon driving his or her car?

“I was a nervous wreck about Dad’s driving,” remembers Lisa H., a family caregiver. “I confronted him, begged him, and argued with him, to no avail. The more I pushed, the more he pushed back. Because he was marginally legally competent, I couldn’t force him to stop.” Fortunately, after a couple of scary incidents, this man made the decision himself that it was time to quit driving.

A confused man behind the wheel of a car.

Others may not be as willing to change. “My uncle did fine for many months driving around his small town, during the daytime, on a route he knew well,” says Jenny M., another caregiver. “I hated to take away his car because it meant so much to him, but we kept on eye on the situation and talked to him about it early on.” In this case, the family eventually insisted that he only drive with a “co-pilot” who could help him navigate and provide feedback and support.

Alzheimer’s disease and the other dementias tend to be slow and progressive. Early on, the person with symptoms of dementia begins to lose skills and judgment, but might still have adequate driving skills.

As dementia progresses, driving is impaired by poor judgment (the person may drive in terrible weather), memory loss (the person may get lost), problems with reasoning and problem solving (the person may be unable to understand signage or an unfamiliar detour) and fatigue (the person may fall asleep). When these factors develop, taking the wheel makes a driver truly a danger to society and him or herself.

The following tips may be helpful to you when it’s time to talk to a family member about driving and dementia.

  1. Explain the situation directly and share your feelings of concern and worry. Sometimes this will work.
  2. Recognize that your loved one may genuinely worry about losing his or her independence and being cut off from familiar friends and activities. Offer alternatives like a senior transportation service, a taxi, or rides from another family member.
  3. When choosing in-home help, look for someone with a valid driver’s license. “A well-trained and supportive caregiver becomes the life-line for a person living with dementia and can take them on drives to the market, medical appointment, or social events,” says Dr. Lakelyn Hogan, gerontologist and caregiver advocate of Home Instead ® , an international in home care company that has helped thousands of Alzheimer’s families.
  4. Don’t become the bad guy. Encourage the person to quit driving because it is the doctor’s order or the wishes of the family as a whole. You can also hire an expert to give an independent driving evaluation and agree to follow his or her advice. Many state motor vehicle departments provide this service or can suggest names.
  5. When a person becomes quite confused or disabled, drastic steps may be required, such as hiding the keys, disabling the car, or removing the car altogether. One family simply told dad that his car was in the shop. He accepted the explanation and the problem was solved.
Why is cash better when buying a car?

For additional advice on having difficult conversations such as this, take a look at Home Instead’s 40/70 Rule TM program, which if full of helpful advice and scenarios for these challenging situations.

Most professionals support the basic privileges and rights of people living with dementia, and forgetfulness alone is not a reason to strip someone of the right to drive. As a family member, you need to be supportive yet vigilant. When the ability to make good decisions vanishes, it’s time for tough love.

Lifestyle Changes For Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias

Laurie Owen from Home Instead and Dr. Jane Potter from the University of Nebraska Medical Center will discuss the lifestyle changes for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.

Get moral support and Alzheimer’s resources in your Facebook feed by liking our Remember for Alzheimer’s Facebook page.

To find a caregiver in your area, contact your local Home Instead office.

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Driving, memory loss and dementia

A close up of a hand on a steering wheel

Two leading experts on dementia and memory loss examine the impact that diagnosis can have on people who drive.

Does car age or mileage matter more?

One in three people over the age of 75 are still driving and older drivers are generally safer than younger drivers. Many older drivers gradually restrict their driving – familiar routes to the supermarket, relatives and friends are often perceived to be safer, especially if fast roads, bad weather and poor light are avoided.

Surprisingly, accidents are less common at roundabouts, perhaps because older drivers sometimes take routes which avoid them. The manoeuvre that is most likely to result in an older person having an accident is turning right across a stream of oncoming traffic, or at a T junction. Traffic lights help enormously. Over the age of 80, people are more likely to die if they are involved in an accident as they are less resilient in taking the physical and mental shock. This is one reason why insurance premiums sky rocket after the age of 75.

The issue of driving is an area ripe for general comment. Everyone will be familiar with the stories of elderly drivers who press the accelerator instead of the brake and wreak havoc. There are calls for curbs. If public safety was the primary concern, it would be much more effective to restrict driving in young men.

When mild memory difficulties turn into dementia, or if driving seems to be affected by failing faculties, then the DVLA needs to know, and it is the patient who is responsible for telling them. If they won’t, or can’t, then responsibility for notifying the DVLA passes to the doctor. The General Medical Council have clear guidelines.

Being told that you can no longer drive can be a real blow to a person with dementia, their families and carers. As someone put it to one of us recently – ‘The worst thing about being told I had dementia was not the diagnosis. It was being told to stop driving.’

There is a world of difference between making a decision to stop, and being told to stop. Whilst most people know they will have to stop at some point, dementia can make it difficult to recognise when this point has arrived. A crunch point is often when a person with dementia gets lost and returns hours late, or, when they have a bump (thankfully usually minor). Another common one is when their adult child takes a trip as a passenger and gets a scare. The loss of independence involved can be minor, or may be hugely significant, especially when family cannot help, taxis cannot be afforded, or public transport is not available. An on-road assessment, at one of the Driving Mobility centres can be a good way of getting an objective opinion about whether it is still safe to drive.

Three things are worthy of note. Firstly, whether a person can drive or not is a legal decision not a clinical one. Nevertheless, all practitioners involved in the assessment and care of people with dementia should be assessing the risks, and this should be reviewed at the annual care plan . Many clinicians use the adage that if the son or daughter of a person with dementia is happy for their own kids to go in the car alone with the grandparents, then everything is probably fine.

What are the chances of finding a stolen car?

Secondly, it is a common misbelief that a diagnosis of dementia means the automatic rescinding of a licence. Dr James McKillop, has produced a brilliant guide on the implications of giving up driving and examples of what incidents to look for which may indicate difficulties.

Finally, the decision to stop driving is often one of slow realisation. Could technology, such as computer touchscreen tests or black box telematics, have a role in informing and nudging the decision? Like any test, the devil is in the detail. But this is an interesting space to watch – perhaps in the rear view mirror (or more commonly now, the reversing camera!).

Alistair Burns, CBE FRCP, FRCPsych, MD, MPhil

Alistair Burns is Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at The University of Manchester and an Honorary Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist in the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust. He is the National Clinical Director for Dementia and Older People’s Mental Health at NHS England and NHS Improvement.

He graduated in medicine from Glasgow University in 1980, training in psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital and Institute of Psychiatry in London. He became the Foundation Chair of Old Age Psychiatry in The University of Manchester in 1992, where he has variously been Head of the Division of Psychiatry and a Vice Dean in the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, with responsibility for liaison within the NHS. He set up the Memory Clinic in Manchester and helped establish the old age liaison psychiatry service at Wythenshawe Hospital. He is a Past President of the International Psychogeriatric Association.

He was Editor of the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry for twenty years, (retiring in 2017) and is on the Editorial Boards of the British Journal of Psychiatry and International Psychogeriatrics. His research and clinical interests are in mental health problems of older people, particularly dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. He has published over 300 papers and 25 books.

He was made an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2016, received the lifetime achievement award from their old age Faculty in 2015 and was awarded the CBE in 2016 for contributions to health and social care, in particular dementia.

Rupert McShane

Rupert McShane is a consultant old age psychiatrist at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. He works with the Academic Health Science Network to help get dementia-related innovations into practice, with the NIHR Clinical Research Network to help get the evidence about what works, and with the Cochrane collaboration to help assess and combine all the evidence that is gathered.

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