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Alzheimer's & Driving: Experts discuss when to intervene

Posted at 2:08 PM, Aug 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-16 19:46:06-04

A Silver Alert was issued for Dorothy Friede about an hour before an April crash in which the SUV she was driving went across the center line and struck another vehicle, according to the Silver Alert timestamp and crash report.

A final investigative report from the state has not been released. The crash report said that Friede, 86, had Alzheimer's disease. The crash happened in Sheboygan County along Highway 57 near County Road MM, shortly after 8:30 p.m. on April 23, according to the crash report.

Friede and the two people in the other vehicle died, the crash report said. George and Betty Seibel, 75 and 70, respectively, were in the other vehicle, according to the crash report.

Family of Friede and the Seibels reached by NBC 26 declined to comment.

"That was a tragedy," Sheboygan County Sheriff Cory Roeseler said of the crash.

"In a situation like this, obviously it's preventable, probably never should have happened from the beginning," Roeseler said.

Talking with a Loved One about Driving

Kate Kahles, of the Wisconsin Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, spoke with NBC 26 in general about Alzheimer's and driving; we learned before our interview that she could not talk about this specific case.

"Driving is one of the most difficult conversations because driving is so tied to independence," Kahles said.

Alzheimer's Association

She said if someone living with Alzheimer's insists on driving, talking to their doctor should be the first step.

Some families have unplugged the car battery if other methods do not work, Kahles said.

"Some families have even found success in allowing someone to keep their key ring, but just taking the vehicle key off of it," Kahles said.

Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia in older people, according to the National Institute on Aging, and dementia is the loss of mental functioning to the point where it interferes with someone's daily life.


The driving decision is different for every person with dementia, said Dr. Ivy Vachon, a family practice doctor at Bellin Health. A dementia diagnosis does not universally mean someone is not safe to drive, Vachon said.

"While some people might see fairly significant decline in a short period of time, other people may notice long periods of plateau or extremely slow decline over years to decades," Vachon said.

Red Flags

Red flags for drivers living with dementia include getting lost, car accidents, or consistently losing items around the home, Vachon said.

"I would watch not only their driving, but their day-to-day activities; someone who's no longer handling their finances very well likely shouldn't be handling the complex decisions involved in driving," Vachon said.

If the time comes to tell someone they should no longer drive, offer solutions for how they will maintain transportation, Vachon said.

Vachon offered a sample conversation:

"'Mom, it's not safe for you to drive, because you keep getting lost going to the grocery store. So, my son, Joe, he's going to take you to the grocery store starting this week. And Billy's going to take you to church, and I'm going to take you to the doctor.'"

Kahles also recommended an "...appeal to their responsibility as a citizen."

"...[S]ay, 'I know that you would never want to hurt someone else, I know that you would never want to be the reason that there's a crash.'"

If none of those tips work, a driver can be reported to the Wisconsin DMV.

For more tips from the Alzheimer's Association, click here.