Print Posted By California Drivers Advocates on 06/08/2017 in DMV

Alzheimer’s and the DMV – The loss of your driver license for Dementia

Alzheimer’s and the DMV – The loss of your driver license for Dementia

How does Alzheimer’s disease affect driving?  Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and irreversible brain disorder that often begins with a few instances of forgetfulness that then progresses through increasingly debilitating stages that profoundly affect thinking skills, memory and eventually prevents the person from performing even simple tasks.  Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia in adults.

The person suffering with Alzheimer’s disease may suffer from diminished cognition. The person may lose the capability for critical thinking and perception.  Reaction times and coordination can be negatively impacted.  Because the act of driving a motor vehicle is so complex and requires that a person be able to “multi-task” on a continual basis, the progression of Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia is a matter of critical concern for the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The DMV recognizes, however, that driving represents much more than just a feeling of independence to the effected driver.  The privilege to drive is directly tied to a person’s ability to care for themselves and to enjoy life.  Driving can be critical to attending doctor’s appointments, shopping for groceries, and to remain social.  Driving can be a vital part of a person’s self-esteem, because once the driving privilege is lost, the person becomes dependent on others for many of their basic needs and that can be overwhelming.

Just because a person has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s does not mean that they must immediately be taken off the road; but because this is a progressive disease with no known cure, a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will have to face the fact that eventually, they will have to hang up their keys.

How does the DMV learn I have Alzheimer’s?

In most instances, the Department of Motor Vehicles is alerted to a person’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, or other forms of dementia, by a physician.  California law mandates that all physicians report a finding of dementia to the California Department of Public Health, who then reports the finding to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

In some instances, however, the DMV may learn that a driver has dementia through a variety of sources, such as:

  • A referral from a Law Enforcement Officer, Fire-Fighter or Paramedic.
  • A report from a family member
  • A report from a friend or neighbor
  • A report from an anonymous source

Regardless of the source of reporting, the DMV is mandated to immediately initiate an investigation to determine if the driver actually has Alzheimer’s, and if so, to what stage has it progressed.  Known as a “Re-Examination,” this investigation permits the DMV to require the driver to present medical information, take a written test, a driving test, and to be interviewed by a DMV Hearing Officer.

What action can the DMV take if I have Alzheimer’s?

There is no question that a person who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia will eventually have to stop driving.  Because Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive and irreversible malady, even if it is found early, the disease will eventually impact the person to such a degree that they simply cannot drive.

When the DMV first learns that a driver may have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, their first obligation is to determine if the allegation is even true.  If the diagnosis is confirmed, then it becomes the DMV’s duty to determine the driver’s stage of progression in the disease.  The DMV has determined that Alzheimer’s develops in three stages:

  • Mild Dementia: The person with mild dementia still maintains the capacity for independent living. This person is able to handle personal hygiene, grocery shopping, banking and meal preparation.  This person’s judgement remains relatively intact.

In this stage, a driver may still be able to safely operate a motor vehicle; however, because of the progressive nature of the disease, the DMV will want to monitor the driver through a form of Medical Probation until such time as their disease progresses to the next stage.

  • Moderate Dementia: For the person with moderate dementia, day to day life and activity can be dangerous.  Some degree of supervision is necessary.  There is a loss of judgement and reaction and they have difficulty coping with their environment.  It would be too dangerous to permit this person to test for driving and therefore the driver license will be revoked.
  • Severe Dementia: The person who has developed to the severe stages of dementia is so impaired that continual supervision is required to maintain even a minimal level of hygiene.  In many instances this patient is largely incoherent and mute. At this stage, the person is mentally incapacitated and must not drive.

What can I do to preserve my driver license after a diagnosis with Alzheimer’s?

Remember, just because you’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia does not necessarily mean you must immediately give up your driving privilege.  If you are in the first stage of the disease’s development, you may still have the physical and mental ability to continue driving for some time.

If the DMV is working to suspend or revoke your driver license after a diagnosis with Alzheimer’s contact the DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates.  Our team will immediately work to preserve your right to a hearing and then we will work to have you evaluated by proper medical professionals who can determine how far your disease has progressed.   There are several Driver Assessment and Rehabilitation programs throughout the State who can specifically assess a person’s ability to drive.

At California Drivers Advocates, we understand the emotional trauma you have suffered by being diagnosed with such a debilitating disease.  The reality is, one day you will have to terminate driving; but that may not be today.  Call CDA today and we’ll do all we can to keep you on the road for as long as possible.

 If the DMV is your problem….California Drivers Advocates is your solution!

For more information about our services visit our website here: California DMV Defense for Dementia.

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