Can Someone with Dementia Drive a Car?


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.

Cindy Laverty is a Caregiver Coach and Founder of The Care Company, an online support website for family caregivers. Through programs, coaching and products, Cindy is dedicated to empowering family caregivers.

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I beg to differ with naheaton's comment. Anyone with significant short-term memory problems should NOT be driving. They cannot remember if the light just turned red or not, if they just saw a car in their rear-view mirror, or if somebody just started to cross the street. Driving is NOT a right - it is a privilege. The state has a right to take away a person's license if it deems that the person is not safe to be behind the wheel of a car. The easiest solution is what somebody I know did...they called DMV and reported their own mother as an unsafe driver. DMV got involved, made the 91-year-old woman take the driving test...and she FLUNKED it. So the state pulled her license permanently. I would defer this situation to the state..and meanwhile refuse to ride with her as the driver. There are 35-year-old drivers I would refuse to ride with, because they a maniacs behind the wheel. Age is not the's "capability" and "responsibility." If a person becomes incapable or irresponsible behind the wheel.....then no driving for them.
Wow.....I would NOT and will NOT allow my mil to drive. Took that privilege away from her over a year ago. She has no sense of direction, can't see road signs, reflexes gone, wears hearing aids, has poor judgment......has dementia.....she has NO BUSINESS driving a car. Just because they might be able to keep it between the yellow lines is no excuse to turn them loose in a killing machine. Take the keys, disable the car, sell the darn may be saving more than one life.
A few real stories:
My Mom showed many signs of early dementia before we realized this was an issue. Luckily she hit something??? dented car and never drove again.

I had a grandFIL who went out from his assited living in NJ, to probably bye scotch(another issue) ended up in a ditch on side of road in nomans land 3:00am, 5 hours away in freezing cold..."On his way to FLORIDA!"
""He was taking the sceneic route!!!!! LOL .... couldn't pass that haha up.""

Friend's of mine, a couple, have parents.... one with severe dementia and other early stages went joy riding one day. They were miles away from home and stopped only because they had 4 blown out tires. There was a SILVER ALERT on highways because they were missing. I warned my friends about the danger of them driving and they should do whatever it took to not let the parents drive.
Why wait until it's too late!!!!
Noone was injured in any of these situations. Blessings counted!!!
If you feel guilty about taking driving away imagine how you would feel if someone gets hurt and you didn't.