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University of Queensland Researchers Developing Online Driving Test for People with Dementia

Image Credits: University of Queensland, Press Release

Researchers at the University of Queensland are working with people living with dementia to develop an online driver safety test that can be performed by GPs in their surgeries. Approximately 472,000 Australians live with dementia; there is also no clear indication of when driving is deemed unsafe.

Dr Theresa Scott, from UQ’s School of Psychology, said there are many negative impacts when people are forced to stop driving. She noted that flaws in current driving tests mean people living with dementia sometimes receive no formal assessment, or they are told they must stop driving as soon as they are diagnosed even when they could continue driving safely. Some people are not willing to accept the decision to stop driving as they feel they haven’t been fairly assessed and continue driving which puts them and others at risk.

Thus, the team’s new fitness-to-drive assessment is the first reliable and valid test that incorporates real on-road footage and gives the person a ‘behind-the-wheel’ driver’s perspective. The technology is expected to help reduce traffic crashes, driving-related referrals and associated costs for health professionals, such as neurologists, geriatricians, and occupational therapy driving specialists.

The video-based fitness-to-drive assessment is based on the hazard perception test, which was used as part of the Queensland Government’s driver licencing system and was developed by UQ’s Professor Mark Horswill and Dr Andrew Hill, who also help on this project.

Limestone Medical Centre Partner and UQ Faculty of Medicine’s Emeritus Professor Geoff Mitchell noted that the assessment tool would significantly benefit GPs when assessing people living with dementia. He said that current office assessments conducted by GPs are fraught with risk, but the fitness-to-drive tool will mean GPs won’t have to rely on paper and pencil tests that have no association with on-road driving ability.

Current tools are blunt instruments, he said, and GPs heavily rely on memory tests and the opinions of loved ones. To now have a tool that is practical, accepted and reliable will be welcomed by all GPs who look after people with dementia. Moreover, the technology will also help reduce the risk of fractured relationships when patients are refused a licence or when a GP is required to refer the patient for further testing.

The ‘Navigating Fitness to Drive with Patients with Dementia’ project, which was awarded AU$1.3 million under the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund, also involves UQ Professor Nancy Pachana and is expected to be available by 2025.

The global dementia care products market was valued at roughly US$27 million in 2022 and, during the forecast period of 2022 to 2032, the market is expected to register a CAGR of 6.9% to reach US$56.2 million. This industry continues to record major growth as a result of the rising awareness about disease management, increased sales prospects, advancement in devices, and improvement in existing devices.

People living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia suffer from adverse effects on their memory and cognitive functioning. This negatively their daily life. As the condition progresses, there is also an increase in the need for patient assistance.

Dementia care products are designed to help patients living with the symptoms of dementia to make their lives easier. A range of products is available in the dementia care product category such as memory exercise & activity products, daily reminder products, bathroom safety products, dining aids, communication products, personal safety products, special clothing, etc.

The market for dementia care products continues to grow as a wider variety of options as well as access become available. Moreover, innovations that help manage and ease life with the condition and help care-providers offer easier support and assistance in maintaining a good quality of life for the patient.

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