The Paradox of Dementia and Driving Cessation: "It's a Hot Topic," "Always on the Back Burner"

Gerontologist. 2020 Sep 15;60(7):1261-1272. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnaa034.


Background and objectives: Despite the well-recognized difficulty that persons with dementia and family carers experience in the decision making and transition to nondriving, there are few interventions and resources to support them. As part of our ongoing research to develop a driving cessation toolkit that addresses this gap, we sought to examine the context-specific factors relevant to its effective implementation in settings that support older adults with dementia.

Research design and methods: A qualitative descriptive approach was used to explore the perspectives of Alzheimer Society (AS) staff in their work of supporting people with dementia and family carers within the context of driving cessation. Individual in-depth interviews were conducted with 15 AS staff members in 4 Canadian provinces. Data were examined using interpretative thematic analysis.

Results: The study results revealed an overarching paradox that despite the importance of driving cessation in people with dementia, it continues to be largely avoided at the individual and system levels. This is explored via the themes of (a) paradox of importance and avoidance identified in AS settings; (b) lack of awareness and understanding about dementia and driving among people with dementia and family carers; (c) distress and avoidance rooted in ongoing system issues; and (d) moving driving cessation to the "front burner."

Discussion and implications: Viewed through the emerging social health paradigm, which focuses on the social and emotional consequences of dementia, our results highlight the urgent need to mobilize our communities, medical education systems, and transportation authorities to finally resolve the dementia and driving cessation paradox.

Keywords: Alzheimer Society; Challenges; Family carers; Social health; Toolkit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Canada
  • Caregivers
  • Dementia*
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Qualitative Research