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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Boston Globe Health and Science staff:
Karen Weintraub, Deputy Health and Science Editor, and Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor.
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Thursday, November 1, 2007
Driving and dementia: when to take the keys
By Elizabeth Cooney, Globe Correspondent
A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease does not automatically mean an end to driving, experts on aging said at an MIT conference today, but because there is no test to determine when people with dementia should no longer get behind the wheel, families need help deciding when to take away the keys.
"All people with Alzheimer's will eventually be unable to drive," said Robert Stern, co-director of Boston University's Alzheimer's Disease Clinical and Research Program. "That does not mean they can't drive early on in the disease. Everyone has a different course. It steals cognitive skills at a different pace."
Caregivers say their loved ones with Alzheimer's are driving an average of 10 months longer than they think is safe, gerontologist Jodi Olshevski of The Hartford said. The insurance company collaborated with MIT's AgeLab and BU to find ways to help caregivers spot -- and then deal with -- the warning signs of trouble.
Family members helped test workshops and written materials that explained how to assess driving skills and how to start the discussion about ending driving. Today the group released a new version of "At the Crossroads," first published in 2000. The booklet for families and materials for support group leaders are available free through The Hartford.