Alzheimer’s – Driving a Car

Alzheimer’s can affect driving ability in a number of ways including:

    Finding your way around
    Remembering which way to turn
    Judging distance from other cars and objects
    Judging speed of other cars
    Reaction time
    Hand-eye coordination

The issues of driving ability and safety can be very difficult ones, both practically and emotionally, for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and their families. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s does not necessarily mean that a person must cease driving immediately. However, any changes in a person’s ability to drive will indicate a need for this to be considered.

Most of us are unaware of just how complicated a process driving is. We simply take the activity for granted. Alzheimer’s can cause loss of memory, limited concentration, loss of sight, and a range of other problems. This will eventually affect a person’s ability to drive safely. Some people may recognize their declining abilities, others may not. Doctors will often recommend that a person should stop driving or they may refuse to approve a driver’s license renewal, particularly if they have been alerted to any problems.

The Impact of Alzheimer’s Disease

Many, but not all, people facing the onset of Alzheimer’s are aware that something is wrong. The diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s can come as somewhat of a relief, as they now know what is causing the problem. Alzheimer’s affects people in different ways and each person will find their own approach to managing with the changes which occur.

There are some good reasons to tell the person with dementia about the diagnosis: Early intervention can enhance quality of life. Knowing about the condition can allow for planning for the future. Access to information, support and new treatments are helped when the person knows about their condition. Knowing about the condition allows for an honest and open discussion of the experience of dementia between family and friends.

Being diagnosed with dementia means that there are a number of matters to consider in planning for the future. If you are still working you will need to consider how dementia affects your working life and start thinking about future changes which may be needed. You may have already noticed the effects of dementia on your work. Some of the changes might include:

Genetic Testing for Alzheimer’s Disease

While most cases of Alzheimer’s Disease are not directly caused by a gene, there are some identified genetic links. For a fuller discussion of the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease, see the risk factors pages. There are genetic tests for these genes, but they are typically only necessary in cases where there is a family history of younger onset dementia.

Younger onset Alzheimer’s disease (onset before age 65) is known to be caused by at least three genes:

APP (amyloid precursor protein) gene
Presenilin 1 gene
Presenilin 2 gene

There are genetic tests for these genes, but they are typically only necessary in cases where there is a family history of younger onset dementia. The E4 sub-type of the apolipoprotein E (ApoE) gene increases the risk of developing late onset Alzheimer’s disease, but does not cause the disease. It is important to emphasize that while the ApoE4 variant may increase risk of developing late onset Alzheimer’s disease, having the ApoE4 gene does not mean that a person will develop the disease.

Brain Scans in Alheimer’s Testing

Brain scans are sometimes used in the diagnosis of dementia. The most commonly used brain scans are :

    Computerized Tomography (CT)
    Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
    Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

CT and MRI scans both generate excellent images of the internal structure and condition of the brain. PET scans can be used to monitor brain activity but are not typically used in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
While CT, MRI and PET scans can detect important changes associated with dementia, a diagnosis cannot be based solely on a brain scan. Sometimes brain scans will reveal no significant changes in the brain.

A Computerized Tomography (CT) scanner is a specialized form of X-ray machine. Unlike an ordinary X-ray machine, which sends a single X-ray beam though the body, a CT scanner simultaneously sends several X-ray beams from different angles to produce highly detailed, three dimensional images of the internal structure of the brain.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans use magnetic and radio waves, instead of X-rays, to provide very clear and detailed images of brain or other internal organs. MRI scans provide static three dimensional images of brain structure. Specialized MRI scans can also be used to monitor brain activity in areas of the brain where speech, sensation, memory and similar functions occur.

Memory Testing Alzheimer’s

Doctors often use a range of tests to assess memory, problem solving skills, attention span, coordination, and abstract thinking abilities of a person. There are many different types of neuropsychological tests that can be used in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and these can help doctors determine the type of dementia a person may have, and to measure the disease’s progression over time.

Additionally, these tests can provide a thorough description of the behavioral symptoms so that they can be appropriately managed and monitored. The tests are also used to evaluate the effectiveness of the medications prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Common tests include

Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE)

Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale – Cognitive (ADAS-Cog)

The MMSE is the most commonly used test and takes about 10 minutes to complete. Patients may be tested a number of times over a longer time period (such as every 6 months) to determine the rate of decline in performance over time.

Alzheimer’s Disease – Ten warning signs

Please note: If you have several of these symptoms, you should see a qualified physician for a complete examination as soon as possible. It may or may not be Alzheimer’s, but it is always best to seek early treatment.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease, which means that symptoms get worse as time progresses. How fast the disease progresses and what pattern the symptoms follow variable from person to person.

The 10 warning signs for Alzheimer’s include :

1. Memory loss: One of the most common early signs of dementia is forgetting recently learned information. While its normal to forget appointments, names or telephone numbers, those with dementia will forget such things more often and also they will not remember them later.

2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks: People with dementia often find it difficult to complete mundane, everyday tasks that are so familiar to us that we usually do not think about how to do them. For example, a person with Alzheimer’s may not know the steps for preparing a meal, using a household appliance, driving a car, or participating in their lifelong hobbies.

3. Problems with language: Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer’s often forgets simple words or substitutes unusual words, making his or her speech or writing hard to understand. If a person with Alzheimer’s is unable to find his or her toothbrush, for example, the individual may ask for that thing for my mouth, because they may not remember what a toothbrush is called.

Consumption of Metals An Alzheimer’s Risk Factor?

One of the most alarming and controversial hypotheses about the potential risk factors for Alzheimer’s concerns aluminum, which became a suspect when researchers found traces of this metal in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. This is indeed a grave concern because many people use aluminum pots and pans for cooking, and aluminum canteens for drinking in the world.

Many studies since then have either not been able to confirm this finding or have had questionable results. Aluminum does turn up in higher amounts than normal in some autopsy studies of Alzheimer’s patients, but this certainly doesn’t occur in all. In addition, the aluminum found in some studies may have come from substances used in the laboratory to study the brain tissue after death. Moreover, various other studies have found that groups of people exposed to high levels of aluminum do not have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. On the whole, scientists can say that it is still very debatable whether exposure to aluminum plays any role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.


Zinc has been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease in various studies. Some research reports suggest that too little zinc may be a problem, while other studies suggest that too much zinc is an issue.

Food and Diet Risk Factors for Alzheimers

There is a growing pool of evidence that suggests that what you eat is very important to your brain. A range of recent studies have reported a link between dietary habits and specific nutritional factors to the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and/or cognitive decline.

In particular, the benefits to the brain of a low-fat diet rich in antioxidants such as vitamins E and C throughout life are becoming clearer.

Here’s what some of the latest research studies have found :

A diet rich in foods containing vitamin E may help protect against Alzheimer’s in some people, according to a study conducted at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago and reported in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Such foods include vegetable oils, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains. Furthermore, the protective effect was NOT seen when study participants took vitamin E supplements, as opposed to getting more of the vitamin from foods. The most significant protective effect was found among those who had the highest dietary intake of vitamin E (which averaged 11.5 International Units per day); their risk of developing Alzheimer’s was 67 percent lower than people who consumed the least amount of vitamin E from food sources.