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.
- 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.There are Specialized Alzheimer’s Adult Day Care Centers, licensed in accordance with Section 429.918 F.S., that provide specialized Alzheimer’s services for AD clients. Staff at these specialized day care facilities must undergo more rigorous training on caring for persons who have Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias than staff at normal adult day care facilities, so that quality of service is increased for the participants at the specialized day cares. FloridaHealthFinder.gov provides an up to date listing of all Specialized Alzheimer’s Adult Day Care Centers in Florida.
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.
If your loved one has gone missing, please call 911 immediately.
Visit the Florida Department of Elder Affair's Silver Alert website for more information on this important and valuable resource, or go directly to the topic that you are interested in:
- When someone goes missing: http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/doea/silver_alert_goes_missing.html
- Criteria for a Silver Alert: http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/doea/silver_alert_criteria.html
- Silver Alert protocols: http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/doea/silver_alert_protocols.html
Personal emergency response systems:
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