Saturday, March 20, 2010

Alzheimer's and driving don't mix

One of the things my mom and I worried about (needlessly, actually) was how we were going to get my dad to stop driving.   A car salesman most of his life, my dad loved cars, loved to drive.   We used to take "Sunday drives" that lasted a couple of hours when I was a child, just wandering the state before heading to Grandma's for dinner.  Once we saw a small plane crash.  Another time I swear we saw a UFO.   My parents thought it would be educational to park beside a cow field and watch a cow give birth. (Ugh.)
My dad was no dummy and he was one of the rare ones who accepted that he was mentally impaired and did not fight it most of the time.  He "got" that he had problems doing things.  He might get angry when he discovered he couldn't do math anymore, but he would stop trying once he knew that was gone.
On his own, he slowed down how much he drove and where he went.  He only went to places he already knew how to get to and if he was with my mom, she drove (which NEVER in my life had happened before--my mom only drove when my dad wasn't in the car).  Eventually he stopped going on Route 5 (taking a hugely convoluted route to my house to avoid it) and started walking to a few places that were really close.
One horrible day my mom got a phone call at work (just a few months before she had to stop working to be with my dad full time).  My dad had gotten into a car accident and fled the scene.   It was his first, and only, car accident.  He was going to Agway to get bird seed and I think something for the garden.  At a stop sign, he pulled out and hit someone and just kept going.  I think he panicked.  He didn't really "flee"--he just drove to Agway, where the cops caught up to him.  The clerk who waited on my dad every week came out and talked to the cops, and they managed to get my mom's work number and call her, and she left work to go there, and my dad didn't get charged once the situation was explained by the clerk and my mom.  It was just a fender bender, no one got hurt.  Thank all the gods.   My dad never drove again.   We did not order this, he decided on his own.  About six months later, my dad announced that he was selling his truck to his best friend's son.  If he missed driving, he never said.
We were grateful that he didn't hurt anyone and that we didn't have to fight him or lie to him to get his keys.
So I'm not at all surprised that Healthday said recently that people who have been recently diagnosed need to be monitored very closely when they drive, although Healthday seems more concerned that dementia patients will get lost than that they will hit someone.
(A) study of Alzheimer's patients suggests the risk of getting lost -- even on familiar streets -- may be greater than once thought. Even with early dementia, there may be no safe period behind the wheel because the disease is unpredictable.
And just think how many people don't get diagnosed promptly. I am sure, I know in my heart, that my dad was impaired for years and my mom and I were in denial.
But the study only looked at MISSING drivers--not car accidents. I think some reevaluation is needed to look at other dangers as well.
Of 207 drivers with Alzheimer's who went missing while driving, 32 died and 35 were found injured, the research showed. Another 70 were not found at the time the data was analyzed. Some had driven for almost two days and covered more than 1,700 miles while lost. Most had set off on routine trips....
The Alzheimer's Association offers a web-based program called "Comfort Zone" that families of Alzheimer's patients can use if the person can still drive safely in familiar places. The driver agrees to limit driving to a "comfort zone," and a global positioning system (GPS) monitors driving. If the driver leaves the area, the family is notified in real time.
(image sourcearticle sourcearticle screenprint.)
driving with Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's blog roll

I want to update my list of blogs that talk about Alzheimer's.  If you are a reader and have such a blog, or website, please send me the URL (even if you have before) and I'll post it on my sidebar.  I only ask that you publish a link to here on your sidebar.   Thanks.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Dimebon fails Phase III testing

I wrote a while ago about Dimebon, a promising new Alzheimer's drug. 
From the Alzheimer's Association:
The Alzheimer drug latrepirdine (Dimebon) did not meet either of its primary research targets in a late-stage clinical study, faring no better than a placebo at treating the disease, according to Pfizer Inc., the drug's manufacturer. The Alzheimer’s Association is disappointed to learn of the negative Phase III clinical trial results, but we remain optimistic about the future prospects for better Alzheimer treatments and prevention strategies.
Pfizer is going to continue to test the drug, hoping it might still have some theraputic value, perhaps in concert with other, existing AD treatments.
Although my dad is beyond the need for treatment, it saddens me that this drug won't save someone else from our family's pain.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Virtual Candlelight vigil/rally for Alzheimer's

You can light a virtual candle for a loved one with Alzheimer's for free (or with a small donation...come on, make a small donation) at the Alzheimer's Association website.
My dad's candle is here.  It says, "Miss you, Dad.  Enjoy the Elsewhere Bar and be kind to the Newbies."

From the site:
On the evening of March 7, 2010, advocates will gather on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, share their stories and light candles in honor of loved ones. This moving ceremony is part of the Alzheimer's Association annual Alzheimer's Action Summit. Show your support by lighting a virtual candle now and becoming an Alzheimer's champion. You will be able to write a personal message that will appear on this site.
If you are on FACEBOOK, the Alzheimer's Association is asking you to put this as your status:
More than 5,000,000 people in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer’s disease. If you have been touched by this disease or know someone who has, please post this as your status and use your VOICE in the fight to end Alzheimer’s.