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Giving Up Driving – Almost

The first big lifestyle change

Text & photo by Tom Hintz

Posted - 2-20-2013

The first major lifestyle change brought on by Alzheimer's has been to dramatically reduce the amount of driving I do. I work from home so that eliminates a major driving need. My wife drives so we can still get to where we need to without me getting behind the wheel.
I was finding myself missing turns and getting confused as I approached intersections, even ones near to my home. At first it was a bit of indecision but in recent months it progressed to where I was having to make an instant decision or missing the turn and having to turn around to come back.

This same indecision began happening on the highway while I was using my GPS. At freeway junctions with more than two choices the indecision was more pronounced despite the GPS giving me verbal and visual clues. I had enjoyed driving for over 45 years but this confusion was making me dread having to drive, particularly when there was enough traffic to exacerbate the situation.

I was also having some vision issues that I thought might be related to the Alzheimer's but the neurologist said no so off to the eye doctor to check that. Since I have reduced my driving so much the vision issue, seeing motions in the peripheral vision has become far less of a concern. Whether something is getting better or I am just “tuning those visions out” they are much less of an issue.

While these problems were frustrating I also had to think about the possibility of my causing an accident. I had a near miss on a road trip that while questionable, I worried that it was related to my indecision. That got me thinking that this was serious enough that I had to take myself out from behind the wheel except in rare occasions.

The only driving I do now is going to the gas station or a nearby store early on weekend mornings. Both are very direct trips and in the early morning when I go traffic is sparse if there is any at all. So far I have not had any episodes of indecision on those short trips but if I notice any problems then I will give up driving altogether.

At this point my doctor said quitting driving is my decision but I will not hesitate to make it official if I feel these issues have progressed any further. The convenience of me driving simply is not worth taking a chance on endangering others.

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