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Dealing with Diminished Capacity Drivers

When an older family member begins to suffer from dementia or a related condition, many people put off The Talk as long as possible. But there are some ways to approach your loved one regarding the loss of driving privileges.

First of all, it's important that you all recognize the danger. If a driver becomes lost, the driver becomes distracted from the road and both pedestrian and motorist traffic. Other drivers may forget basic "rules of the road" like stopping at a red light or yielding when turning left. There are some more obvious hazards as well, such as reduced reaction time or some other diminished physical capacity.

Many older drivers recognize the fact that they should not be driving and are quite relieved when they are told not to drive anymore. Such a finding may come from a court or a doctor, but it is probably best that it come from one of their loved ones.

Whether they are relieved or not, being grounded is a very big adjustment, especially if the person has a hard time accepting change and embracing new things. The first few weeks and months are generally the hardest time period. Be prepared to be gentle yet firm; you can always relax the restrictions and oversight later. You may want to consider taking the car keys, disabling the vehicle by draining the gasoline or removing the battery, or moving the car to another location.

In a subsequent post, we'll examine the legal implications of driving with a medical condition in Tulare County.