The CarFreeMe program and resources aims to involve families and carers in the intervention process of driving cessation of people with dementia.
For many older Australians, and particularly those with dementia, relinquishing their driver’s licence can be a potentially overwhelming and demoralising event. Dr Theresa Scott, NHMRC-ARC Research Development Fellow at the University of Queensland, is working with a research team to develop CarFreeMe – a program that will provide practical and emotional support for those advised to stop driving.
The decision to hand over the car keys can prove difficult, leaving many feeling they have lost their independence. It also presents a challenge to primary carers, and GPs – often tasked with delivering the difficult news. Dr Scott has found that timing is everything when it comes to relinquishing a driver’s licence.
‘The transition to non-driving comes at a significant personal cost, including an increased risk of depression, anxiety, loneliness and isolation, identity loss, and grief. As symptoms of dementia progress, people lose insight into their driving ability and how it may affect others. Therefore, the ideal situation is for voluntary and gradual driving cessation,’ notes Dr Scott.
With trials currently underway, CarFreeMe is an evidence-based approach to supporting people living with dementia who are adjusting to life without driving. It is focused on the emotional and practical issues. The program has access to trained health professionals giving tailored solutions to individual needs and access to alternative forms of transport based on their location.
‘Changes to driving status not only impacts the individual but also their family members and support team. Often people are less upset with the process if they come to the conclusion themselves earlier rather than later.’
Dr Scott’s team are also trialling a telehealth resource to support general practitioners, primary carers and health professionals to manage this significant change. She hopes that this resource will be particularly helpful for general practitioners in rural and remote areas, where transport options are limited, and practitioners who have often developed a relationship with patients over a significant period.
Ultimately, the CarFreeMe program and resources aim to involve families and carers in the intervention process, resulting in better outcomes for people living with dementia.
‘This resource will help people realise they have a life outside of driving. It was developed with input from personal experiences and the need for life adjustments to remain active and connected to their community after driving cessation.'