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Fit2Drive App for People With Dementia

By Kimberly FowlerDecember 8, 2016
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When it comes to a dementia diagnosis, families have a lot to deal with. In addition to caregiving and health concerns, families reported that loved ones dealing with the inability to drive is “the biggest problem we’ve ever had to face.”

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia will eventually make it impossible for impaired individuals to drive safely. The question is when. How do doctors and families know when the individual has reached that unsafe point? Learn more.

Fit2Drive App for People With Dementia

Because so many adults depend on their car as a reliable form of transportation, driving cessation has a profound impact on their:

  • Ability to obtain everyday necessities and needed services
  • Ability to participate in community activities
  • Functional independence
  • Mood
  • Self-esteem
  • Social life

Today’s Geriatric Medicine reports that:

“While individuals with dementia are more likely than unimpaired older adults to be found to be unsafe drivers and to evidence more rapid decline in driving performance, there is considerable evidence that patients in the earliest stages of dementia may be able to continue driving for some time.”

It’s not just or useful to remove a person’s ability to drive prematurely, at the time their dementia diagnosis is made. On the other hand, knowing that at some point the patient will be unable to drive and may not have the cognitive ability to self-identify when driving becomes unsafe, the issue becomes a difficult one.

It is necessary for family, physicians, and other members of the patient’s primary care team to weigh in on when the person should stop driving.

Currently, the medical tests involved in determining a person’s cognitive ability to drive safely are costly and time consuming. That’s why the Fit2Drive calculator was created (it’s patent is still pending).

Fit2Drive was designed to assist a geriatrician or primary care provider in making the decision that a patient is fit to drive, or needs further, comprehensive evaluation. To do this, the Fit2Drive calculator uses scores from the patient’s MMSE9 (an assessment tool that is widely used to assess a range of cognitive functions) and Trail-Making Test B time (a test used to assess reaction time, executive function and driving fitness). The two scores are entered online (or into the mobile app), and Fit2Drive makes a prediction of the likelihood that the patient would pass the on-road driving test.

Knowing When to Use Fit2Drive

Today’s Geriatric Medicine notes that “a technician may be trained to administer the tests [MMSE9 and Trail-Making], but an untrained person may not obtain comparable results,” which means that in order to use Fit2Drive, the individual must have first undergone MMSE9 and Trail-Making testing.

Assuming that this has been done, then:

“Fit2Drive is appropriate if a patient is driving but [there are]… concerns about the patient’s continued fitness to drive,” Today’s Geriatric Medicine reports.

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Ways Your Doctor Can Use Fit2Drive

Fit2Drive provides family members and physicians with a factual, quantitative method of determining whether a person with dementia may be at risk if they continue to drive. If you have a concern about your loved one, then ask your physician to access the Fit2Drive Calculator at http://Fit2Drive.us.

Next, the doctor simply enters the person’s:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Total MMSE score
  • Trails B time (in seconds).

Once the information is submitted, the “probability that the individual will pass an on-road driving test is displayed immediately. For example, if a patient has an MMSE score of 27 and took 70 seconds to complete the Trails B test, the likelihood of passing a standardized on-the-road driving test would be 0.67 (67%),” Today’s Geriatric Medicine reports.

When designing the Fit2Drive calculator, creators looked at the testing and driving ability of hundreds of men and women aged 50-97. Of these drivers,  “the majority (80%) had been referred for testing by a physician, 12% by the courts or notice from the Department of Motor Vehicles, and 2.5% had participated voluntarily. Approximately one-half reported that they had received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or a related dementia; the remainder did not report a diagnosis,” Today’s Geriatric Medicine noted.

The article also found that the majority of the participants upon which this calculator was based were white, meaning that “there is a possibility that, given the age and education bias that has been found in the use of the MMSE in members of minority groups, the calculator may be affected by these biases and should be interpreted cautiously with members of these groups until further research is done.”

Are you concerned about your loved one’s ability to drive? The Fit2Drive calculator can help you determine if your worry is justified. To learn more, visit the Fit2Drive website or talk to your family doctor.

Do you have experience using Fit2Drive or have you worked with loved ones dealing with the inability to drive? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.

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Kimberly Fowler