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Driving Tests...Any Ideas???
Posted: Tuesday, September 8, 2015 9:52 AM
Joined: 7/24/2015
Posts: 3020

Please, I don't want this to be a thread debating whether we should drive...many of us do. Rather, in the recent discussions about people with dementia driving, the subject of testing came up...and with it, it became quickly obvious that the standard ways that AARP and AAA conduct the tests would be needlessly hard for people with dementia to pass, not because they cannot drive safely, but because they have difficulty following instructions, especially as they are given.

An example of this is in turning left at the next intersection. We all know how to turn left, but we know it absent language. And because our language abilities are affected (and not our driving abilities), the instruction to turn left at the next intersection would make most people with dementia's head swim. However, what it they simply pointed in the direction they wanted us to go.

My daughter and I, in light of the recent discussion regarding driving, thought that one way we might really help out the lives of people with dementia is to create an adapted driving test for AAA and AARP.

I would really love your input, your ideas, and perspectives so that we can make this really work for people.


Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Tuesday, September 8, 2015 11:21 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3468

This is a very hard topic for us to know all the answers. Two key things should be done. One the use of your own car should be allowed. Second the tester should not try to purposely distract you while driving. That is so unfair. A bunch of idiots in a room came up with the test they have today. I can assure you not one person with dementia was even involved.

Posted: Tuesday, September 8, 2015 11:38 AM
Joined: 1/28/2013
Posts: 2661

Ah, the distraction part of the test. I remember catching on that the tester was doing that with me, seeing if, and for how long he could trick me into taking my eyes off the road. I really think they have to see how you might react to a sudden distraction like a police siren or a passenger in the car with you. It's a bit unfair if you're more likely to lose your thread if you're distracted, but it's important to know in a driver assessment.

Now we're getting somewhere with the actual concrete examples I can understand and relate to. Before, we were not speaking the same language.

Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Tuesday, September 8, 2015 3:57 PM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3468

The driving rule book says one will not do things that will distract you. I don speak to any one when I drive with others so I can focus at times. So why do I need to speak when I konw I should not. They purposely say things to you that cause you to use multitasking answers. They don’t do that to a person without AD taking a regular driving test. Why is my test different then a normal person. We should be treated equally. That is all I ask.

Posted: Tuesday, September 8, 2015 5:13 PM
Joined: 7/24/2015
Posts: 3020

Ok...going on my list:

* figure out something about the distraction part.

* and use own car (I would think that would be a given).

Any other ideas???

Posted: Tuesday, September 8, 2015 8:29 PM
Joined: 5/20/2014
Posts: 4405

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has an inside look at a family dealing with early onset Alzheimer's, including decisions to make about everyday tasks such as driving.

Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 5:17 AM
Joined: 5/20/2014
Posts: 4405

I think leaving early and mapping out your trip are good ideas. Anyway or anything to reduce the stress around your travel. No sudden turns or moves. Keep a safe distance from other cars. If you miss your turn keep going and find a way to circle back. I use both Mapquest and GPS. I think the two should be a must with persons with dementia. Even if you are traveling a familiar route road work and detours is challenging for someone with dementia. If a road test for someone with dementia involves them driving somewhere they are not familiar with and just getting verbal directions from the tester this could be confusing. The person should know and be prepared for what routes they are taking in advance of the road test. This seems like so much pressure for someone with dementia that perhaps a computerized simulation test would work better.

I feel like cars in the opposite direction are flying toward me at times. Presently I am aware this is a visual perception problem and that it is not really happening. I compensate by staying calm, telling myself this is not really happening and looking toward the lower right of visual field similar to how one is supposed to look when headlights are glaring.

Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 7:33 AM
Joined: 9/12/2013
Posts: 3560

I used my dog to help me drive. Seriously! I just remembered this. The dog likes to ride in passenger seat and would give me the eye, or shift her foot if she felt the car was not behaving normally.
I remember even calling her my co-pilot, and how nervous I was without her.

One thing to note is if the person is aware of ANY deficits related to driving.
some one who knows to park away from busy places is different than the person still trying to squeeze a huge car into a tight parking space.

also detours - if there is problem in road and you are not expecting it, to teach yourself to stay calm, pull over when you can, and regroup. I could not drive now because the lag time in processing new info is more than I would have on a road with other traffic.
maybe a scale of what one is still good at and what not so good at?

Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 9:37 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3468

Many of the test use simulators. This is by far unfair as it requires a person with dementia to not only learn something new but then they are timed on response. IN my opinion that is a complete failure to all taking it.

They give many mental type test that have absolutely nothing to do with driving. Who gives a shit if I can not count back words from 100. How many stupid people out there driving that don’t even know how to read and they have drivers license.

The idea that one who gets lost needs to change as part of being able to drive. I know many people who get lost and do not have AD. At least I have more brains than them to ask for help and use GPS.

From a personal point the most important thing we can all do is to keep calm if something wrong happens. That is so important and to constantly remind yourself that things will go wrong but must stay calm. If we can no longer control that it is time to stop. It is that snowball effect that makes our brains of no longer working. We cannot handle stress. For me I just keep reminding myself to keep calm.

Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 8:41 PM
Joined: 10/11/2014
Posts: 167

My tips from when I took the test if you decide you want to take the test. First, I brushed up on the driving manual for rules of the road. My son had recently gotten his license so he still had his manual.
Second, play some video games on Nintendo or Playstation, driving racing games just to get the feel of video games so that when you get to the simulator it won't be so bad.

If you get to the driving test, remember that they take you out on the local roads first and the speed limits are low so it is fine to go slow. Get used to the car. Like Michael said, stay calm. When they tell you some directions to perform, just repeat them after you hear them just so that you confirm that you heard the instructor/tester correctly. You are allowed to repeat them aloud again as you go so that you don't forget and that the tester knows that you are following his directions.

Don't worry about crashing or getting anxious, just focus on driving. The tester is usually a person who tests 17 year olds and the car used is usually a driving school car that should have an extra brake for the instructor. I know that car won't be familiar but they want to test your driving skills and their car's are typical small cars which should be easier to drive than a midsize or SUV. You might be required in real life to drive a friend's car to take them home so it is a valid thing for them to test you in their driving school car.

Try to schedule the driving test during a time when there is very little traffic. For me, my driving test was out in the more rural area of West Boylston, MA so even during rush hour there is not much traffic. You may have the option of location as well as time when you schedule the test.

Be positive and confident when you take your test so that the instructor will be of the frame of mind that you are a confident driver and should keep your right to drive. Also schedule your test when you know your meds and any supplements are working. Don't schedule it for the witching hours when your donepezil won't be in full effect.

Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 11:00 PM
Joined: 7/24/2015
Posts: 3020

These are all great ideas. Thanks.

I was thinking that there could be different tiers for driving. Like one with no restrictions, and one with the restriction of only known places. The known places one would require that the instructor ride with you, in your car, to those places.

The no restrictions test, I was think we could maybe get by on the down low by just scheduling a regular behind the wheel like a kid does. And when the guy gets in the car, just mention that we just wanted to make sure we were still doing well. Then we'd get the test we all know. I feel lucky, our DMV has their own land.

A trick is, with their own land, you can go as slow as a crawl with no penalty.

If they use their own car...they could use ones with the second brake pedal on their side...and that safety precaution should do away with the need for other invasive (am I even comfortable to get in a car with you tests).

There could be a restriction one that requires GPS. Then we would already be familiar with the voice.

I think pointing the directions while saying them is key.

It will also be the trick to find out the scoring system. For example, if you ace the normal behind the wheel test - you can refuse to parallel park and still pass. Especially handy to know for teens who find that nearly impossible anyways...and so much better to refuse it than to bump the cone and fail.

These are great ideas.

We are still trying to figure out who over at AAA to talk to about altering their test.

Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Thursday, September 10, 2015 6:43 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3468

I have did that and have failed. They are not ready to address this issues. I believe they will be ready once Dementia friendly becomes more popular.