When an individual is diagnosed with dementia, one of the first concerns that families and caregivers face is whether or not that person should drive. A diagnosis of dementia may not mean that a person can no longer drive safely. In the early stages of dementia, some—though not all—individuals may still possess skills necessary for safe driving. Most dementia, however, is progressive, meaning that symptoms such as memory loss, visual-spatial disorientation, and decreased cognitive function will worsen over time.
Over the past two decades, as the population of seniors—65+ years—has grown, government (local, state, federal) agencies, nonprofit community organizations, for profit businesses and the media have focused increasing attention on the needs of seniors and those who provide them with support, assistance or care. It is estimated that by 2050 the population of people over 65 will be 20.9% of the population. These are startling numbers effecting everyone in the United States.
Our culture tells us that we should fight hard against age, illness and death: "Do not go gentle into that good night," Dylan Thomas wrote. And holding on to life, to our loved ones, is indeed a basic human instinct. However, as an illness advances, "raging against the dying of the light" often begins to cause undue suffering, and "letting go" may instead feel like the next stage.
Many of the diseases and disorders that affect the brain are progressive and their incidence and prevalence increase with age. Caring for those with adult-onset brain impairments frequently becomes a 24-hour, 7-day a week role. As the population ages, the need for care and for understanding the impact of these disorders on families becomes even more pressing.