When do problems with memory and decision-making affect older adults’ ability to drive?

Study finds lower levels of cognitive function were linked to a higher risk of motor vehicle crashes | Journal of the American Geriatrics Society | via ScienceDaily

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A team of researchers designed a study to learn more about cognitive health and older drivers’ crash risks. The study focused on links between levels of cognitive function and crash risk among older drivers without dementia. They also assessed the link between changes in cognitive function over time and later risks of crashes.

Researchers followed 2,615 participants for an average of 6.7 years, and looked at motor vehicle crashes involving participants. For older licensed drivers without dementia, lower levels of cognitive function were linked to a higher risk of motor vehicle crashes. Depression also was linked to a higher risk for crashes in older licensed drivers without dementia.

The researchers noted that, unfortunately, there is not yet a widely accepted specific clinical exam, procedure, or lab test that can evaluate driving and crash risk related to cognitive function. The researchers concluded that older drivers with lower levels of cognitive function were somewhat more likely to be involved in a crash.

Full story at ScienceDaily

Full reference: Fraade-Blanar, L.A. et al. |  Cognitive Decline and Older Driver Crash Risk. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society | published online 17 April 2018

Mild Cognitive Impairment and Driving Cessation

Driving cessation is associated with significant morbidity in older people. People with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) may be at particular risk of this | Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders

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Very little research has examined driving in this population. Given this, we sought to identify predictors of driving cessation in people with MCI.

One hundred and eighty-five people with MCI were recruited from 9 memory clinics around Australia. People with MCI and their carers reported their driving status and completed measures of cognition, function, neuropsychiatric symptoms, and medication use at regular intervals over a 3-year period.

Of the 144 people still driving at baseline, 50 (27.0%) stopped driving during the study. Older age, greater cognitive and functional impairment, and greater decline in cognition and function at 6 months predicted subsequent driving cessation. Twenty-nine of the 50 people (58%) who stopped driving were diagnosed with dementia during the study; all except one of whom ceased driving after their dementia diagnosis.

A significant proportion of people diagnosed with MCI stop driving over the following 3 years. This cannot be entirely attributed to developing dementia. Easily assessable characteristics – such as age, cognition, and function – and changes in these measures over 6 months predict driving cessation.

Full reference: Connors, M.H. et al. (2017) Mild Cognitive Impairment and Driving Cessation: A 3-Year Longitudinal Study. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders. Vol. 44 (no. 1-2) pp. 63-70