Driving involves physical, visual, and cognitive abilities. “How fast is that response to say there’s a kid in the street, I’ve got to hit that peddle. So, it’s how you see it, how it fuses into your brain, and how you respond,” explained Pearl Hernandez, an occupational therapist with Lee Health.
A diagnosis like Parkinson’s disease can impact a patient’s response times and memory—making driving challenging over time. “As soon as they get diagnosed, they should be looking at I should get a driver’s evaluation done,” she said.
Occupational therapists can evaluate patients to make sure they’re safe to be on the road. “With Parkinson’s, it’s more of what are the symptoms coming on? You can have tremors and still drive. It’s more the foot. Is your response to the peddles as fast,” said Hernandez.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive diagnosis—but health experts say exercises that stimulate the mind and body can help patients maintain independence and keep them safe on the road. “My big thing is to preserve the driver’s license; it’s not to say no you can’t drive anymore because that’s such a great loss of independence. I really try to preserve the license if we can,” she said.
But the evaluation can also help patients understand how the disease can cause limitations and challenges on the road. “Driving becomes too hectic, it’s too much of a demand on you, and instances start to happen. Things start to happen, and you realize that you just can’t drive anymore,” said Hernandez.
A test the helps patients and others stay safe behind the wheel.