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J Am Geriatr Soc. 1993 Jul;41(7):747-52.

Driving performance in persons with mild senile dementia of the Alzheimer type.

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  • 1Program in Occupational Therapy, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To assess the effect of mild senile dementia of the Alzheimer type (SDAT) on driving ability.

DESIGN:

Cross-sectional study with correlation analysis.

SETTING:

A university-based Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, which evaluates community-living older adult volunteers, and the university's Program in Occupational Therapy.

PARTICIPANTS:

Healthy elderly controls (n = 13) and subjects with very mild (n = 12) and mild (n = 13) SDAT. Dementia severity was staged by the Washington University Clinical Dementia Rating.

MEASUREMENTS:

The driving ability of participants on the in-car road test was scored independently by a driving instructor, blinded to the study design and to the dementia status of the subjects, and an unblinded occupational therapist. Interview-based perceptions of driving ability were obtained independently from the subjects and their collateral sources. Attentional and visuospatial performances of the subjects were assessed prior to the road test.

RESULTS:

All control and very mild SDAT subjects were judged to be "safe" drivers (ie, passed the in-car road test), but five (40%) of the mild SDAT subjects had driving impairment sufficient to "fail" the road test. Neither subject self-assessment nor caregiver perceptions of driving ability consistently predicted driving performance. Attentional task performance correlated well with road test results.

CONCLUSIONS:

Some SDAT subjects retain "safe" driving skills. The greater the dementia severity, the greater the likelihood of poor driving ability. Performance-based (road test) evaluations are necessary to properly determine driving skills at present, but attention and other cognitive screening measures should be developed.

PMID:
8315186
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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