Seniors with memory problems may struggle with driving
TORONTO – Seniors with memory problems and related attention and decision-making issues may struggle with driving tasks, according to a Canadian study.
Not all patients with mild cognitive impairment, the early stage of memory loss, have issues with driving, the researchers write in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
However, patients with added impairments, such as difficulty with multi-tasking or making quick decisions, are particularly likely to have trouble with tasks like staying in lanes and making left turns in traffic, the researchers write.
“Driving is a highly complex task that requires the integration of multiple cognitive functions, such as attention, memory, and visuospatial ability, all of which can be affected by mild cognitive impairment,” said senior author Tom Schweizer, director of the neuroscience research program at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
“Despite this, there are no validated tools or guidelines to help assess the driving safety of patients with mild cognitive impairment,” Schweizer told Reuters Health by email.
Mild impairment is often a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and is likely to get worse over time, “so it is also important to help patients and families identify when it might be time to stop driving,” Davis, who was not involved in the study, noted by email.
“Families are encouraged to monitor driving by riding with their family member as a passenger,” Davis advised, adding, “If concerns arise, be sure to see your doctor and consider taking a formal road test.”
“These results highlight the importance of physicians talking to their patients about driving, even when cognitive deficits are very mild in nature,” said Schweizer.
New tools are needed to help doctors better assess driving, he added. –Reuters