Driving with PD
Once again, every case with Parkinson's is different and unique, that includes whether you can continue to drive. Although driving isn't safe in the advanced stages of PD, people with milder symptoms or symptoms that can be well managed by medications may continue to drive. Several issues are involved when deciding whether you should continue to drive or not. This includes your physical ability, legal permission, safety, and importance of keeping your independence. More than likely, most people can drive safely with Parkinson's for many years after diagnosis.
You may even want to schedule trips and driving around optimized medication times to ensure safety and the ability to respond to potential incidents quickly.
PD eventually affects your reaction time, the ability to handle multiple tasks, vision, and judgement. If you aren't sure whether you should still be driving, ask yourself honestly whether you would feel comfortable driving a loved one and whether you would be risking that person's safety by driving with your symptoms.
Also, pay attention to how others react to your driving. If your loved ones have said negative things about how you drive or they aren't sure whether they want to be your passenger, you may want to think carefully about their concerns.
Dr. Friedman writes, "PD patients frequently have a problem with visual-spatial orientation which is the way people judge their environment. PD patients do not interpret their geometric world with the same geometry as the rest of us which can often cause those with PD to drive too far to one side of the road. PD can also impact the ability to judge oncoming traffic from both directions, as well as to merge into a lane at an appropriate speed. Increased disorientation can also lead to greater anxiety which could further impair judgement. Most commonly, slowness of movement and reaction time are the factors that play a key role in driving performance and knowing when driving should be reduced or eliminated."
If you are still unsure about driving, your physician can provide an assessment that measures your reaction time and ability to judge actions quickly. From there, they can help you understand whether it may or may not be in your best interest to continue driving.
Applying for Alabama Handicap Parking Permits
If you do decide it is safe to continue driving, consider applying for a disabled parking permit so you can park in the closest spots. The Alabama Motor Vehicle Division issues placards and license plates to disabled people who meet the necessary qualifications on the handicap parking application. You can apply for both permanent and temporary disabled placards, depending on the severity of your disability. Permanent placards are valid for no more than five years, while temporary placards are valid up to six months.
To successfully receive a handicap permit in Alabama, you must apply in person at your nearest Alabama Motor Vehicle Division office. Be sure to bring with you:
A filled-out handicap parking application which can be downloaded online at this link: https://drhandicap.com/dmv-forms/alabama/
The certification of your disability by your physician
Payment of $23 for the license plates (free if you're only applying for a placard).
If you are a disabled veteran, you still need to fill out an application, but only bring your disability rating certification and your veteran ID card.
When it becomes clear that you or your loved one is no longer safe behind the wheel, you will need to find alternate transportation options to get to medical appointments and necessary shopping trips. For many families, relatives and neighbors are good resources to help with transportation, but you may find this assistance isn't sufficient or these individuals aren't always available. The Area Agency on Aging serving your region can help you find alternate transportation options.
Many municipalities offer reduced rates for seniors on their public transit program. Some even have door-to-door service for seniors who can't access public bus stops. Look for a program with accessible vehicles if your loved one uses a mobility device.
Some communities have social service organizations with volunteer drivers and escorts who serve the elderly and disabled in the area. The National Volunteer Transportation Center is one of these, and it operates hundreds of volunteer transportation systems across the country.
Another option is to use ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, for occasional trips. Both companies have specialized services that help older adults, including services you can book without using a smartphone. Uber's UberAssist vehicles are accessible for people with disabilities. Seniors can use third-party programs such as Go Go Grandparent or Common Courtesy Rides' Joy Ride program, to connect with these ride-sharing options more easily.
Other resources are more location specific. Carpooling and senior transportation services through local charities are possible options. To find these types of services, contact your local AAA or senior center.
ClasTran provides rides for (60+) and disabled residents that reside outside of the MAX VIP bus transit service area in the Greater Birmingham area. You can learn more on their website at www.clastran.com or by calling 1.205.325.8787.
Medical Transport of Alabama serves Alabama 24 hours per day, seven days per week, and works closely with Medicaid and multiple insurance companies. Private pay is accepted, and customer companions are invited to ride with their loved ones at no charge. Learn more at http://mtalabama.com or by calling 1.888.599.2050.
In addition to utilizing home care assistants for transportation, there is also a Helping Hands Transportation in Birmingham that can be scheduled by calling 205.458.3484.
Disclaimer: At PAA, our desire is to be a GO TO Resource for everything you need for the Parkinson's diagnosis to live a quality life with PD. We want to make sure you have all resources you need as you plan your journey with Parkinson's now and into the future so that you can reflect and discern what decisions you want to make with the appropriate insights to help you choose and build a plan that is unique as your journey. The PAA, nor the contents on this website, should never be a replacement for professional expertise and guidance from medical, legal, or financial professionals. Our goal is to equip you for those conversations. As such, the PAA cannot be held accountable for your choices and outcomes while navigating your Parkinson's condition.
Friedman, MD. Joseph H. "Making the Connection Between Brain and Behavior: Coping with Parkinson's Disease." Chapter 14. Driving. Pages 158-166. Second Edition. DemosHealth 2013