Parkinson’s Disease and Driving

When is it Time to Stop Driving with Parkinson’s Disease?

In answer to this question, the Michael Fox Organization published an article written by Dr. Rachel Dolhun about driving and Parkinson’s disease (PD).

First of all, Dr. Dolhun points out that driving is an important means for socialization, for keeping in touch with family and friends. Driving is not simply a means of transportation to go from one place to another.

Many Different Brain Functions are Necessary for Driving

While driving may seem fairly easy for most normal people, nonetheless, many different parts of the brain have to work simultaneously such as:

Vision

We need to see correctly so that we can see where we are going. We need to be able to read signs, see cars in front of us and behind us and to see pedestrians who might be crossing the street.

Cognitive

We need to remember how to drive, to be able to think clearly and make quick decisions. We need to remember things like stopping at a red light, where we parked our car and where we are headed.

Movement

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is progressive and eventually may disable motor function. When we drive we have to be able to quickly turn our heads to see where we are going when we back up. We need to be able to get in and out of the car easily. We need to be flexible when we steer the car. People with Parkinson’s often suffer from uncontrollable tremors, rigid muscles, slowness and uncontrolled movements.

Hearing

We need to hear people, horns, sirens, beeps and police whistles.

Sensation

We need to be able to feel with our feet the gas pedal and brakes and to be able to apply the exact pressure needed.

Attention and Alertness

When we drive we need to be super alert to see everything that is going on around us. Many of the medicinal drugs given to Parkinson’s patients can lead to drowsiness and make a person less alert.

If any of the above are not in working order then the life of the person with Parkinson’s is in danger and can endanger the lives of others.

Family Members might be Worried about Safety

Family members may be worried about the safety of their loved one, but sometimes the person with Parkinson’s cannot be reasoned with. At the same time, people with Parkinson’s have a tendency to depression, so if they lose their freedom and independence to get up and go and drive off somewhere to meet friends or family members this can be devastating.

Slow Moving but Impulsive

Even though People with Parkinson’s disease move very slowly, some of them are very impulsive kind of like a hyperactive tortoise. For instance an elderly man with Parkinson’s might suddenly try to go off alone somewhere dangerous like a trip to the desert. To read more about Parkinson’s disease see our blog post from April 3, 2019.

Public Transportation

A good idea is to try to encourage people with early Parkinson’s to start using public transportation. This fulfills their desire to get out and do things, but someone else is at the wheel.

Consultation with Therapists

Consultation with an occupational therapist or a driving rehabilitation therapist may be helpful.

Most People with Advanced Parkinson’s will Sooner or Later Need Long-term Skilled Nursing Care

The Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in East Orange, New Jersey offers excellent long-term skilled nursing care at the hands of a warm and friendly staff.

Conclusion

Obviously the danger to life must take precedence over anyone’s feelings and the ideal situation is where the person with Parkinson’s disease realizes themselves that it is time to stop. Unfortunately, many people with Parkinson’s lose the ability to be reasonable.

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