The third in a series of short blogs, sharing some insights into the trials and tribulations of driving with Parkinson’s.
I used to drive a 40-mile round trip to work. On the way, I’d drop my youngest son off at school first. We’d listen to the Chris Evans Breakfast Show, chatting and singing along to our favourite tunes. Once I had dropped him at school, I’d switch the radio for an upbeat playlist, turn up the volume and sing all the way to work. It was a beautiful route (same cannot be said of singing), on narrow, winding roads through stunning countryside. I would enjoy the scenery as I drove through the beautiful Slad Valley, the backdrop of Laurie Lee’s childhood memoirs in ‘Cider with Rosie’. The journey gave me some thinking time in which I would mentally prepare for the day ahead. On the way home, I’d relax and enjoying the drive and sometimes use the time to chat, handsfree, with family and friends.
Six months into my job, I recall thinking how strange that these familiar roads should begin to feel more difficult to navigate. I found I needed to concentrate harder and consequently, the drive was less relaxing and less enjoyable than it had originally been. Navigating the twists and turns of the country roads had started to demand more of my attention as did passing parked cars and negotiating oncoming traffic. Conversations with my son became stilted as I found it difficult to concentrate on our chat as well as concentrating on driving. I turned the volume of my music down and stopped singing along. I found I was unable to enjoy the view and concentrate on the road ahead, so I became oblivious to the scenery. I started to arrive at work tired from the mental challenge of the drive and in no way mentally prepared for work. On the way home, the drive was no longer relaxing and I gradually stopped making those phone calls. I remember feeling that something had changed but couldn’t understand what or why.
There are so many initially subtle and seemingly disparate changes with Parkinson’s that it can take some time to join the pieces together. It was 18 months later that I was diagnosed and would be another 18 months before I would begin to make the connection between these experiences and the mild cognitive impairment that is common in the early stages of Parkinson’s which includes:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty multi tasking
- Impaired visuospatial awareness
- Slowed thinking
- Delayed reaction time
Recognising that all of these can impair the ability to drive safely, the DVLA require those of us living with Parkinson’s to reapply to renew our driving licences every three years but that’s another story……..
PS Mum, don’t worry, it’s the perfect excuse to take the train 😜!