Pennington forum to focus on effects of aging and dementia on driving
“Driving Under the Influence of Aging and Dementia” is the focus of a public forum on dementia coming up on Sept. 25 at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
Presented by the Institute for Dementia Research and at Pennington, the issues raised at the conference will go beyond those of how and when a person with dementia stops driving, said Jeff Keller, Ph.D., the director of the institute.
The institute also plans to begin research to look for helpful interventions to keep people independent and driving safely longer, he said.
“We’re starting to be known as the group that studies mobility,” Keller said.
As they’ve studied people’s walking patterns, researchers at the institute are finding that “changes with how much people move and how fast they move happen very early in the disease process” of dementia, Keller said.
Changes in the walking gait, too, are seen in the early stages of the disease, he said.
“If we can prevent these things, we think it’s going to improve your risk for dementia,” Keller said.
“The ultimate mobility is driving,” he said.
“Right now, there still isn’t any good measure for what is normal for age-related driving decline and pathological decline,” Keller said.
“We’re developing tools to measure changes in driving skills and performance, so we can develop interventions in order to keep them moving,” Keller said.
Such research will also be useful in helping state agencies and physicians design evidence-based criteria for driving impairment, he said.
“We fully intend to get a driving simulator here. We’re working on that now,” Keller said.
At the free public forum, which begins at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 25, speakers will include Keller, as well as Dr. David Carr of Washington University in St. Louis.
Carr has assisted in the development of the Driving Connections Clinic at the Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis, an 80-bed inpatient rehab hospital affiliated with Barnes Hospital and Washington University, according to a biography provided by Pennington.
“His research interests are in medical conditions that affect driving and especially issues of assessing driving safety and retirement in older drivers,” the biography said.
Carr is one of about 10 people in the U.S. who are “seriously researching this issue,” Keller said.
Other panelists will include Dr. Patrick Gahan, with Lake Senior Care Center, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, and Barbara Auten, executive director of Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area.
There will also be a representative of the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles.
The evening will include question-and-answer periods.
The forum will be helpful to caregivers of those with dementia, as well as physicians and other health-care providers, Keller said.
This year’s forum is the fourth such event by the Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention.
The Institute is engaged in three pharmaceutical trials and two exercise, behavioral trials, Keller said.
Recently it was also awarded a $500,000 grant for a “Walking Interventions, Cognitive Remediation and Mild Cognitive Impairment” study from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Keller said.
The new study will launch in October and will enroll 80 people over two years, he said.
To learn more about the upcoming public forum on dementia or the Institute’s research trials and to register for the conference, go to http://idrp.pbrc.edu.
Information can also be found by calling (877) 276-8306 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.