Driving with Dementia

My mother is caring for my step father with dementia.  It has been explained to us that it is alcohol induced dementia, due to his heavy drinking.  He no longer drinks, BUT he drives!!  As everyone on this site has said, he has good days and bad days.  My siblings and I all live 7+ hours away from my mother, and she is caring for him by herself.  She continues to let him drive, so as not to rock the boat.  She has to tell him where to go, when to turn, and where they are.  They have lived in this community for 30 years!  My siblings and I have told our mother that we are not comfortable with him driving her around.  She says, "he still knows driving rules and shows good judgement when driving!"  She does not want to take this away from him, as he can be a very angry man!  I have told her that since he has been diagnosed with dimentia, if they get in an accident, their insurance may not pay for the damage.  But our concern more than that is her safety!!!   I need to hear from people who have dealt with this issue and how we might deal with this.   Thank you!

Super Contributor




Definitely a definite no-no.  The person hits someone and it can open a pandora with no end.

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AARP Expert

@suec721226 It sounds like you are in a tricky situation - and your Mom is too! I understand your concern about your mother's safety. A few thoughts about what you could do:

  • Have you or your siblings taken a ride with him? It's always a good idea for you to ride along so you can get a sense of his judgement and skills. Your mom says it's good, but is she saying that partially because she doesn't want to rock the boat? 
  • You can suggest she talk with his doctor and have the doctor talk to him about not driving - sometimes it's better received from a non-family member who your step-dad respects (lawyer, doctor etc.). One family told me they had the doctor write a prescription and put it on the refrigerator that said "no driving until further notice" (which made it sound temporary so their mother was ok with that - she kept asking when she could start driving again, but eventually stopped asking.) 
  • What is the back up plan if he can't drive anymore? Is your mom ok to drive? Is there public transporation? Can they use uber or lyft? Is there senior transporation (contact your local area agency on aging to ask about that - go to It's always best to have back up options and alternative transportation when you have the talk about hanging up the keys. 
  • You might want to put a GPS device in the car in case he takes the car on his own and gets lost. There are tracker devices you can get now that are quite small and could be put in the trunk etc. where he won't notice them. Or, he could wear a medical alert device that has GPS tracking and can be worn anywhere in the community. If he uses a cell phone your mom can get an app (with his knowledge) that tracks where his phone is. 
  • Does he have any other health conditions you can pin it on? My Dad had dementia, but he also had Glaucoma, so his doctor focused on the visual impairment and the fact that it made it unsafe for him to drive - he wasn't buying the fact he had dementia but the visual issues were obvious to him.
  • AARP has a great free online seminar - a resource about driving that's called "We Need to Talk: Family Conversations About Driving"  You can go through that online and there are a lot of other great resources there too.

The bottom line is he will eventually have to stop driving in terms of safety - so it's good you and your siblings are looking at this! Glad he's not drinking anymore but you're right, the driving is a big safety factor. He will have good days and bad days, but you never know when his skills will change so a good day can turn into a bad day really quickly!  


Your mom is lucky to have you looking out for her and your step-dad! Keep us posted and let me know if you have further questions - happy to help!


Take care,

Amy Goyer, AARP Family & Caregiving Expert

Author, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving and

Color Your Way Content When Caring for Loved Ones




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