Dementia driving resources aid older people in Taiwan

University of Wollongong (UOW) researchers are helping clinical practitioners in Taiwan develop the skills to address the issue of driving retirement for people living with dementia.

Over time, dementia gradually affects the skills necessary for safe driving, such as judgement, memory, attention and the ability to assess surroundings.

For many, this happens without the person realising, significantly increasing the chances of getting lost while driving or having a car accident.

Yet, being asked to stop driving or revoking driving licenses has a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of individuals living with dementia and their carers.

The Dementia and Driving Decision Aid (DDDA), developed by aged-care specialists at UOW, guides and assists individuals to make informed and empowered decisions and minimise stress associated with forced decision-making.

With an ageing population, clinical practitioners in Taiwan are keen to learn how they can handle the delicate conversations about driving with someone who has dementia.

In Taiwan, it is estimated that the number of people with dementia will increase substantially, exceeding 800,000 by 2050.

Professor Victoria Traynor and Dr Rita Chang, from UOW’s School of Nursing, are helping address the issue by providing training to clinical practitioners on the topic of dementia and driving.

The collaboration began in January 2017 when UOW signed an MoU with the Taiwan Alzheimer’s Disease Association.

The workshops are being delivered through the Taiwanese Alzheimer’s Disease Association, Asia University and the Integrated Dementia Care Centres (IDCCs), using the dementia driving resources developed in Australia and tailored for local language and customs, as well as an educational module for clinical practitioners on the topic of dementia and driving.

The workshop includes hands-on activities role playing difficult conversations about driving cessation and emphasises the importance of raising the topic as early as possible and taking a long-term view of helping individuals deal with driving retirement.

Over the next year, UOW researchers will evaluate how these clinical practitioners use these new skills to positively affect individuals living with dementia and their family carers on the topic of driving cessation.

“Clinical practitioners all around the world report feeling reluctant to talk about driving cessation with individuals living with dementia because they know loss of a driving license causes great sadness and practical problems to individuals living with dementia,” Professor Traynor said.

“Driving cessation makes a person dependent on others for transport to social events, shopping and attendance at healthcare appointments. This reduces a person’s sense of control and their overall wellbeing.

“Our team has worked together for 18 months to help address the issue of dementia and driving and prevent some of these negative consequences in Taiwan.”

LiYu Tang, Secretary General of Taiwan Alzheimer’s Disease Association, said dementia was posing the same challenges for Taiwan as other parts of the world.

“More and more traffic accidents caused by aged people and people with dementia. But it is difficult for family carers to cope with this problem.

“Based on the human rights of people with dementia, we hope this intervention will minimise the conflict in the family with people with dementia and reduce the number of traffic accidents caused by people with dementia.”

Mrs Tang said in Taiwan only about one-third of people living with dementia receive a diagnosis.

“Lack of awareness and stigma are still an important issue in Taiwan.”

The DDDA was developed by UOW researchers from a variety of specialist knowledge areas including medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, public health, psychology and road safety, under the auspices of UOW’s strategic interdisciplinary research program, Global Challenges.

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