Driving is a very complex activity that requires a number of cognitive skills that may decline as we age.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), dementia affects a number of critical abilities needed for safe driving. These include perception, visual processing, maintaining attention, responding to multiple stimuli at once, making correct decisions, and acting appropriately in difficult traffic situations. Individuals in the early stage of dementia may be able to drive under normal circumstances, but can have difficulty with changing circumstances, and may become lost.
NHTSA has several resources for safer driving on their Older Driver Safety website.
The Alzheimer's Association defines dementia as a general term that describes a set of symptoms that may be caused by a number of different brain disorders.
- Aging, Memory Loss, and Dementia - What is the Difference? (pdf)
- Alzheimer's Association's Dementia & Driving Resource Center website
- Alzheimer's Navigator helps guide caregivers to answers by creating a personalized action plan and linking to information, support and local resources
- Florida Statistics on Alzheimer's (pdf)
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 4.3 million Florida residents are aged 60 and older, and there are about 520,000 probable Alzheimer’s cases. The Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative (ADI) was legislatively created in 1985 to provide a continuum of services to meet the changing needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, and similar memory disorders, and their families. The Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) coordinates and develops policy to carry out the statutory requirements for the ADI.
Model Day Care programs have been established in conjunction with Memory Disorder Clinics to test therapeutic models of care and provide day care services.
Memory disorder clinics funded by the State of Florida provide comprehensive assessments, diagnostic services, and treatment to individuals who exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and related memory disorders. The clinics also develop training programs and materials and conduct training for caregivers, respite service providers and health care professionals to help care of persons with Alzheimer's disease and related memory disorders. You can visit the Florida Department of Elder Affair's DOEA website to view a location map and contact information to help you find a clinic near you.
The Department of Elder Affairs administers programs and services for elders across the state of Florida through 11 Area Agencies on Aging, which operate as Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs). These ADRCs function as a single, coordinated system for information and access to services for all Floridians seeking long-term care resources. The ADRCs provide information and assistance about state and federal benefits, as well as available local programs and services. Click here to locate your local ADRC.
In 2008, Florida enacted the Silver Alert program. Silver Alerts help local law enforcement find adults with dementia or other cognitive impairment and return them safely home if they become lost while driving a car.
While 95 percent of older adults live independently, the Silver Alert program helps prevent tragedy among one of Florida’s largest potentially vulnerable groups.
The Silver Alert program is a collaborative effort between local law
enforcement, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the Florida
Department of Transportation (FDOT), and the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) to
share information with the public to help improve the chances of a safe
recovery. A Silver Alert helps local law enforcement in the rescue of
missing persons who are driving a car by broadcasting
pertinent information to the public through the use of dynamic message signs
on Florida highways.
Specific criteria for a Silver Alert as well as how to report a missing person, public service announcements, frequently asked questions, and success stories can be found on the Silver Alert website.
Going beyond senior friendliness, a transportation service that considers the special needs of passengers with all stages of memory loss. Read more in the Dementia-Friendly Tip Sheets created by DOEA with the Safe Mobility for Life Coalition.
- The Department of Elder Affairs 2010 study Florida Dementia Friendly Transportation Research Project builds off their 2008 study where they were able to develop a definition for dementia friendly transportation
- NHTSA's Alzheimer's and Driving brochure
- The Hartford's Publications on Aging website is a resource for family conversations about driving safety