Q: Should someone with early dementia be allowed to drive alone?
A: Absolutely not! The minute you suspect that something is wrong with your loved one you must take action. This is an extremely delicate subject for most seniors as it is the last bastion of their independence, but under no circumstances can you allow someone to drive if there is any sign of dementia. The physical risk to others and to oneself is simply too great, and there are numerous documented cases of horrible accidents happening when someone was driving who shouldn't have been.
That being said, you must ultimately take the keys away. If you are unsure about how to do this, you can call the DMV and explain the situation with your loved one and ask the DMV to schedule a written, visual and driving test as quickly as possible. They are usually very helpful, as they don't want anyone on the road who is impaired in any way.
If you do not get satisfaction with the DMV, then contact your loved one's insurance company and explain your concerns. The insurance company will help you. While you wait for the actual test, you must do everything you can to limit dangerous driving.
You need to have ‘the conversation' and you need to do it in a kind way that expresses your concerns about safety. If presented correctly, you might find that your loved one is actually relieved to not have to maneuver the roads alone any longer.
The early stage of dementia is one of the scariest times for your loved one because of the reality of knowing that something is wrong, but being afraid to talk about it. Be cautious in your presentation and generous in your spirit, but no driving for someone with dementia. It's simply too dangerous.