6. Giving up driving
Many people with dementia choose to stop driving voluntarily because they begin to find it stressful or they lose confidence in their abilities. A person should consider stopping driving if they:
- feel less confident or more irritable on the road
- get lost even on routes they are familiar with
- begin to misjudge speed or distance
- find themselves straying across lanes or hitting kerbs
- get confused if there are roadworks
- have minor scrapes, accidents or near-misses
- find that passengers express concerns about their driving.
It can be easier to accept not driving where the person has made the decision themselves, rather than been told they have to by DVLA/DVA. Stopping will also be easier if it has been discussed before and the change planned for. But a person who feels they should stop driving will still need support and understanding from their carer, friends and family members. They may feel unhappy about stopping driving if they are used to being independent, or if they have always driven their partner or family around. Not being able to drive may well make it harder to visit friends or family or go on day trips. It also makes it more difficult to carry out everyday tasks such as shopping, going to places of worship or visiting the doctor.
If the licence holder decides to give up driving, they need to write to DVLA/DVA to tell them. They can download a 'Declaration of voluntary surrender' form from www.gov.uk or get one by calling DVLA/DVA (see 'Other useful organisations'). The completed form should be posted back with the person's driving licence to the agency.
Tips: supporting someone who is no longer driving
Giving up driving is not always an easy decision to make. Someone with dementia may be very reluctant to stop driving even if DVLA/DVA has concluded that they are not safe to drive. Carers, family members or friends should be on hand to give encouragement if needed. The following suggestions may be useful.
- Try to acknowledge how difficult the decision may be for the person. Driving may have been their main means of transportation for much of their life. Having to stop may lead to feeling a loss of independence or feeling unhappy and it could lower self-esteem. Giving up driving will also seem especially hard if physical problems make it difficult to use public transport. Cuts in public transport might also make it difficult to get about without a car.
- Encourage the person to take charge of their new transport arrangements, so that they regain a sense of control. They could gather details and timetables of local transport services, for example. Make sure the person is getting all the concessions they are due. Many mobility centres offer an 'aftercare' service of practical local advice for people who have stopped driving.
Point out some alternatives to driving. Examples - other than public transport - include:
- booking a taxi to go to the supermarket once a month. The person could set up an account with a taxi firm they trust and like, and order taxis in advance
- finding out which local voluntary organisations offer community transport services to help the person keep doing things
- asking whether the hospital can help with transport for appointment
- paying bills by direct debit so that they don't need to visit the bank or post office so often
- getting a shoppers' bus to the supermarket and back
- ordering shopping online (if possible) and having it delivered to the house, or being helped to do so.
Highlighting some of the benefits to not driving may also be useful. Things to point out could include:
- no longer having to look for parking spaces or remember routes
- no longer paying for petrol, servicing, road tax and car insurance - freeing up a significant amount more money each month
- no more stress of driving in busy traffic
- the chance to meet people and chat when travelling on public transport
- getting more exercise if they decide to walk instead.
With plenty of support and understanding, a person with dementia can successfully adjust to not driving, and still live a fulfilling life.