Home' Intouch : In Touch Autumn 2017 Contents 12 IN TOUCH AUTUMN 2017
DRIVING TOWARDS CHANGE
MANDATORY REPORTING SHOULD BE CONSIDERED TO
EASE CONFUSION AROUND DRIVING AND DEMENTIA.
The discussion paper Driving and
Dementia, released in November
by Alzheimer’s Australia NSW,
has found that there is still a lack
of information and understanding
around: what is required by
people who have a diagnosis of
dementia and who hold a driver’s
licence; little clarity around the
role of doctors in this area; and a
lack of information and support
regarding available alternative
Alzheimer’s Australia NSW
CEO The Hon. John Watkins AM
says these all combine to make what is already a very difficult
time in people’s lives more confusing, stressful and challenging.
“In NSW once dementia has been diagnosed, a driver
has to inform Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) and their
insurer of their diagnosis, but many drivers are not aware these
requirements exist,” John says.
“We need clearer guidelines and information about just what is
required by a person with dementia who holds a driver’s licence
and, importantly, we need a clearer understanding of alternative
“The rights and needs of the person with dementia must also
be considered. Many can continue to drive, albeit with some
conditions. But access to alternative forms of transport in order to
be able to travel is also critical for people with dementia to remain
connected with their community.”
With the ageing of the Australian community, this issue is going
to become more significant. In 2014, there were approximately
142,000 licence holders in NSW over the age of 80 and
approximately 50,000 over the age of 85. Although it is not known
how many of these older drivers had a diagnosis of dementia,
research suggests that the incidence of developing dementia
increases significantly with age.
John says the lack of clarity around driving and dementia means
medical professionals continue to be placed in a difficult position.
“At the moment, it is not mandatory in NSW for doctors
to report to the RMS that one of their patients has or is
showing signs of dementia,” he says.
“They only do so if they are concerned that a person with
dementia is driving when they should not be. This can place
them in a difficult position and can be seen by their patient as
the cause, if their licence is revoked, which can impact on their
ongoing relationship with their patient.
“If reporting is made mandatory, it removes the need for this
kind of discretion and takes it out of the hands of the physician.”
Key recommendations from the discussion paper are as follows:
• Consider mandatory reporting for health professionals to the
RMS for conditions that are likely to have an effect on public
safety, such as dementia.
• Improve the guidelines for medical professionals to support their
role in the transition from driver to non-driver.
• Develop a Driving and Dementia information pack for
doctors in NSW to issue to patients with dementia at the
time of diagnosis.
• Introduce policies that address the cost and accessibility of
on-road driving assessments in order to make the service timely
• Improve the process of driving cessation by streamlining
communication between doctors, the RMS and occupational
therapists who undertake on-road assessments for drivers
A full copy of the discussion paper, along with the full
list of recommendations, can be found at: https://nsw.
A Fact Sheet that summarises the pathway for a driver or
family member when a diagnosis of dementia is received
has been developed and can be found here: https://nsw.
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someone get a
diagnosis of dementia
and what sort of tests
might be given?
A person should talk to their doctor about any concerns, as many
conditions have symptoms similar to dementia, such as depression,
some infections, some hormone disorders, over-medication or
taking medications that clash, and brain tumours. Only a doctor can
diagnose dementia after completing medical and psychological
assessments. Tests might include: detailed personal medical history;
physical and neurological examination; laboratory tests (eg blood and
urine tests); and cognitive tests (eg Mini Mental State examination
and GPCOG). Cognitive tests help differentiate between the different
types of dementia.
QCan someone do anything to reduce their risk
of developing dementia? If someone is already
diagnosed, how can they stimulate their mind?
Scientific research shows that it might be possible for people to
reduce their risk of developing dementia or delay onset. Evidence
shows that adopting a brain-healthy lifestyle might be helpful. For
example, having a healthy diet, regular physical exercise, brain
exercises, regular health checks, an active social life, avoiding bad
habits such as smoking, and taking care to avoid head injuries.
Refer to our Your Brain Matters program. For people who have
been diagnosed with dementia, it is important to continue to
lead a healthy lifestyle as suggested above. However, it is also
important to speak with your GP or health professional before
embarking on a new exercise routine or diet, or before making
any changes to an existing one.
13/03/2017 12:04 PM
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