Doctors and other health professionals attended a project launch in Adelaide on the 3rd of February which highlighted how medicos and nurses can assist drivers with dementia to hang up their car keys.
The ‘Driving and Dementia Practitioner Educational Module’ (which can be undertaken face-to-face and/or fully online) is a research project emanating from UOW. The online site for the module will be available to use from early March.
The project is a collaboration between four organisations – UOW, Seniors Information Service, SGIC Insurance and the South Australian Government. The launch is taking place in Adelaide where the first face-to-face sessions will be delivered to general practitioners and practice nurses working in North Adelaide (Playford and Salisbury Councils).
UOW’s Associate Professor Victoria Traynor, who is also Associate Director NSW/ACT Dementia Training and Study Centre, said following the official project launch on Wednesday a series of professional development workshops for GPs and practice nurses in the northern suburbs of Adelaide will be held.
She said the workshops would run on the topic of supporting patients, their families and carers to draw on using the Dementia and Driving Decision (DDA) booklet.
The free decision aid booklet is designed specifically for drivers with dementia.
Much of the credit for the booklet’s development is attributed to Dr John Carmody who is a Senior Staff Specialist Neurologist at Wollongong Hospital and Cathie Andrew, Occupational Therapist and Lecturer at the Australian Catholic University, Sydney. Their PhD and MPhil studies at UOW involved the development and testing of this decision aid booklet.
Dr Carmody said the best approach may not be to directly confront individuals or their carers but to give them the tools they need to make the decision for themselves.
“GPs are often reluctant to discuss the issue because they are too worried that any conversation will jeopardise a lifelong relationship with their patients at a time when they most need their GPs,” according to Professor Traynor.
“As a result, decisions are being made far too late in the journey, often when things have come to crisis point. Medical colleagues feel it is necessary to take licences away. We also know that families don’t know what to do for the best and resort to hiding car keys and disengaging car engines which, of course, antagonises the individual. People feel that retiring from driving equals a loss of freedom — we want those losses to be less devastating,” she said.
Asked at what level of memory loss one is okay to drive, Dr Carmody said that some people with early/mild dementia were safe to drive.
He said that dementia was gradually progressive and it was very difficult to accurately determine when someone has become unsafe to drive.
“Early discussion and planning are important strategies. Review by a GP or specialist every six months is wise,” he said.
(Source: University of Wollongong)