Driving with Aphasia

Driving with Aphasia

Q: My spouse has aphasia and I'm afraid of letting him drive again. He insists that he can drive and we argue about it. What can I do?

This happens in many families, and they typically want someone like me to explain to the person with aphasia that they can't drive. However, this is not my area of expertise, and I know that many people with aphasia who can't read or speak get along just fine in the real world.

The spouse's side—You're concerned because  your loved one doesn't understand that they may have some deficits, they are in denial, or they have vision problems.  You don't want a constant confrontation, but you want your loved one and everyone else on the road to be safe.  You feel pressured by your spouse to give in, even though you don't feel comfortable with it. You want to be the spouse/caregiver, not the boss of a grown person. You may be over-protective in your concern, or you may not know what needs to be done to get your spouse with aphasia driving again.

The person with aphasia's side– They have lost so much—their jobs, their independence, their hobbies, possibly their friends. It is very important to their self-esteem to be able to drive themselves to the store or to an appointment. Imagine if you were dependent upon someone else for transportation all the time. It's yet another blow to their intellect—they are now perceived as disabled, flawed, and incapable of taking care of themselves. They may feel confident that they can drive and may be relentless in pursuing this goal.

There are three common scenarios to driving again:

  • Your doctor has restricted driving (he/she sent in a form to the state that prohibits driving)
  • The driver's license has expired or
  • They still have their license but have new physical or visual limitations that they didn't have before.

The easiest answer to all of these scenarios is to find a driver rehabilitation facility/instructor near you.

http://www.aded.net/ is a website where you can find the closest rehabilitation professional. The beauty of this is that if your spouse has deficits, the evaluator will find them. The evaluator will conduct a series of different tests to check the client's visual field (where they can see in space), reaction time, ability to understand signs, and how to operate a motor vehicle.  These tests are not covered by insurance because they are not medically necessary. In my area, they charge $300.

The evaluator is a neutral third person whose job is to work with people with all types of disabilities. In our area, if the client does not pass the initial testing, they can attend a few classes and work on their problem areas. They can be retested again at a later date. . The evaluator may also recommend adaptive equipment that can be fitted to the car to help the person with aphasia use the left hand and foot to control the vehicle.

This approach lets you off the hook and leaves the decision to a professional evaluator. If your spouse fails the test, you can defer to the evaluator's decision. If your spouse can drive again, you know that he's deemed safe by a professional.  You also don't have to play the transporter all the time, freeing up more time for other activities.

This is the place to start the driving recovery journey and well worth the investment. Good luck!

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About Dr. Bartels

Dr. Bartels is a published aphasia researcher, presenter, author, and founder of The Aphasia Center Intensive Aphasia Program. She is an aphasia diagnostic and treatment expert with over 11 years of daily experience. She helps families with aphasia all over the world plan their recovery and exceed their goals.

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