Dementia Solutions – Caregiving Advice, January Update

Dementia expert, Karen Tyrell, offers answers to visitors for their situation-specific questions. Karen is a dementia consultant who can point you in the right direction, giving quick insight and personalized answers to help you with dementia care challenges.

Do you have a specific question relating to dementia that you need answered? Please submit your questions by email to: [email protected]

January, 2015 Update

1. Driving With Alzheimer’s – How Do I Get My Mother To Stop Driving ?


My mother has Alzheimer’s (we think) and I feel that the illness has progressed to the point where she should no longer be driving a car. I fear for her safety because I know her driving abilities are impaired (most days). However she gets very angry and resistant whenever I discuss the topic. What should I do?”

~Driving Distress


You are rightly worried about your mother’s safety while driving. However, in her eyes you are the one to blame for trying to take something away from her that she values – her driver’s license and sense of independence. A poor memory won’t stop her from recalling that you were the “guilty” party that stopped her from driving, because emotional memories remain strong for those with Alzheimer’s and some other forms of dementia. To divert the anger away from you, it would be in your best interest to have someone else take on the role of decision maker in determining whether she is capable of driving.


Her family doctor, could take on this role. Inform him/her of your concerns and mention details you have of the impaired driving by your mother, such as passing through a red light or some fender benders. Through simple tests the doctor can evaluate eyesight and cognitive functioning, and then may have her assessed by a company that does driving tests in the province you live in. There may be a simulated test prior to the actual road test as well. Depending on the results your mother will be notified about whether she needs to return her license. 

It’s never easy to feel you can’t continue doing something you’ve always done. Showing your mother your empathy about this issue will also diffuse her frustration towards you and help you both stay on amicable terms throughout this journey together. Good luck!

2. Lifespan with Dementia – What is the Norm?


“My father has Alzheimer’s and I’m his primary caregiver. I was told his disease may last a long time. Is this the norm? What is the lifespan for those with Alzheimer’s?” 

~Son Seeking Answer 


One of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s is its variability—it affects people differently and does not adhere to a fixed timeline. For some the symptoms of Alzheimer’s may start several years prior to a doctor’s diagnosis and the symptoms themselves will show up differently depending on the patient. Your father’s lifespan with Alzheimer’s may be radically different from others living with the illness, so the best way to understand how the illness affects him is by observing him.

Among the multiple variables that determine the lifespan of those with Alzheimer’s, is the physical health of the individual. Try to gage your father’s overall health by asking some simple questions. Does he get regular exercise and eat healthy? Has he been impacted by illnesses and diseases such as diabetes or cancer, or experienced serious injuries? Remember that it’s never too late for anyone to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Even small lifestyle changes can have a very positive impact in increasing lifespan and having your support as a son and caregiver also makes a wonderful difference.

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s does not mean your father cannot enjoy a good quality of life for many years to come. Wishing you and your father the very best!

3. “Senile Dementia” – What does it Mean?


 “I am curious to know what the term “senile dementia” means. Is it a specific type of dementia?”

~ Curious Christopher


Thanks for your question. There’s a lot of terminology that was used in the past to refer to medical conditions, but is no longer used by health professionals today. “Senile dementia” is one of those terms. At one time it referred to any type of dementia affecting aging individuals. Hope this helps and stay curious!

Do you have a specific question relating to dementia that you need answered? Please submit your questions by email to: [email protected]

Karen Tyrell CDP, CPCA is a Dementia Consultant & Educator for Personalized Dementia Solutions ( and the author of the book “Cracking the Dementia Code – Creative Solutions to Cope with Changed Behaviours.” She offers her expertise on dementia care through speaking engagements, workshops and by working one-on-one with families and caregivers.