Driver Rehabilitation Program

Memorial's Driver Rehabilitation Program lasts about 2 1/2 hours and includes a clinical portion assessing the physical and visual cognitive abilities of a patient and an on-road assessment.


What is the Driver Rehabilitation Program?

Heidi Hoskins, rehab supervisor/occupational therapist, explains the program: "Our driving rehabilitation program lasts about 2 1/2 hours. It has two parts to it. The program has a clinical portion that takes about an hour and a half where we assess the physical/visual cognitive abilities of a patient, and then they do complete an on-road assessment. This assessment is with a certified driving rehab specialist who is additionally an occupational therapist. He takes them in a car that has a second brake like a driver's ed car. This car is adaptable so if someone does need training with adaptive equipment such as hand controls or a left foot accelerator, he can do the training in this car. The entire process is about 2 1/2 hours. It is much more involved than being assessed at the DMV, and it gives a lot more clinical information than you would receive at the DMV."

Judy Hagelstein took part in the program after suffering a stroke in 2015.

Judy tells her story, "They worked with my hand and my arm to the point where they suggested I take a driver's test. Of course, I was insecure, but I did it anyway. I have been driving for over a year, and I want to tell you the independence is just awesome. The instructor has a van in which he has brakes on his side of the van. The first time I drove, I drove for 45 minutes. It felt very long because I hadn't been behind a wheel in over two years, but the more I drive, the more confident I get. I don't have to depend on people to get me anywhere, and the independence is wonderful."

Heidi discusses why patients go to Driver Rehab.

"If we're looking at a patient such as Judy who had had a stroke, and many times the physician is saying, 'I don't want you to drive now. We're gonna let you work through your recovery, and we'll look at driving as an option in the future.' It's unclear sometimes when is that time to begin driving," Heidi says. "So if they are attending therapy, we focus on that in our occupational therapy clinic and use it as a guide of when we think it might be a good time to actually take an assessment or participate in the assessment. But many times we receive referrals from patients who have attended therapy in other clinics that just really want to know, 'Am I safe to be driving again?' It gives the physician, the patient, the patient's families and caretakers, a really good understanding of how they're doing on the road...if they're safe to return to driving or if maybe they need a little bit more therapy before they return to driving. Drivers Rehab could be for anyone who's had a medical setback and isn't driving. So, it could be anyone that has maybe a hip replacement and their right leg's just really weak now, and they are wondering, 'Do I have enough strength to hit the brake or gas appropriately?' It could be someone who has numbness in their feet from neuropathy and now it's getting a little unsafe when pressing on the brake or the gas. It can be someone that's had progressive lower extremity weakness, and now they would like to continue to drive with hand controls. We assess for that ability to continue to drive or regain the ability to drive."

Heidi discusses another service offered through Driver Rehab.

"This is an assessment of individuals who should maybe retire from driving," Heidi explains. "That's how we'd like to say it. Those individuals that we have concerns about with memory deficits or dementia, and it's often a really hard decision for that family member or the physician even to decide when is it appropriate to stop driving. Those individuals come in, they participate in the same program. We do the clinical assessment and then they do an on-road driving assessment. We meet back with the patient and the family and really discuss what the options are or what our recommendations are. Our recommendations are not final. The physician is always going to be the final determination of whether someone drives, whether they get to drive or whether they retire from driving."

Judy explains how the occupational therapy team encouraged her.

Judy praises, "They give you hope. They tell you you can do this. I didn't think I could drive. When they suggested that, I thought they were a little silly, but I thought, well if I don't try I won't know. And I'm so glad I did. You just have to try and just not give up."