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Driving with Dementia in Massachusetts

driving with dementia in MACan driving continue after a person has been diagnosed with dementia?

As a general rule, people with early-stage or mild dementia can continue to drive, but only after having a driving evaluation. People with moderate or severe dementia should not drive. Additionally, individuals must be mindful of any further cognitive impairments as they could indicate a change in the stage of dementia.
It is estimated that about 130,000 people aged 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s & Dementia in Massachusetts, that is why it is important to understand the risks and protocols associated with driving and dementia.

Massachusetts is a self-reporting state. It is the responsibility of the individual to notify the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) when there is a medical condition that may affect their ability to drive.
If your family member has been diagnosed with dementia, they should report it to the RMV and have a driving evaluation. Many hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and occupational therapists offer driving evaluations. Massachusetts RMV provides a list of driving evaluation programs in Massachusetts.

Since the symptoms of dementia worsen over time it is highly suggested for the affected person to be reevaluated at least every six months or sooner if necessary. The results of the evaluation will determine whether the individual will be restricted on when or where the individual can drive. Anyone who does not pass the evaluation must stop driving immediately.

What to expect during the driving evaluation?

Specially trained healthcare providers can perform a driving evaluation. They can recognize the impact of dementia symptoms on the ability to drive. They can also suggest getting adaptive driving equipment or applying for a disability plate with the help of RMV.

Clinical Evaluation

During the clinical evaluation, the therapist will:

  • Review the person's medical and driving history
  • Medication review
  • Check vision
  • Assess memory, judgment, and speed of response
  • Assess the general motor function (strength, range of motion, and flexibility)

Road Test

During the Road Test therapist and or driving instructor will be sitting next to a person who takes the test.

The therapist will assess:

  • Handling the car
  • Problem-solving ability and judgment
  • Traffic assessment

Continue to Monitor Driving

Even after passing a driving evaluation test, it is still important for relatives and friends to continue monitoring the individual's driving. Symptoms of dementia may significantly decrease driving skills in a short period of time. It is very important to monitor continually to prevent an accident.

Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles
Your Health and Driving Safely in Massachusetts’
Driving Safely and Alzheimer’s Disease
Dementia and Driving
Public Health Action in Massachusetts

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