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2018 Conference Presentation

Dementia Austria

10 September 2018

People with dementia: challenges to support independent mobility for an overlooked group participating in traffic

Matthias Nagler, Vienna University of Technology (TU), Austria

Georg Hauger, TU Vienna
Claudia Berkowitsch, TU Vienna
Monika Wanjek, TU Vienna
Christopher Schlembach, Uni Wien
Ulli Röhsner, MAKAM Research GmbH
Birgit Duschek, MAKAM Research GmbH
Christian Dominko, MAKAM Research GmbH


Dementia is an issue of increasing concern for an aging society. According to the World Health Organisation 35.56 million people worldwide suffer from some form of dementia and 2.3 million people worldwide obtained a dementia diagnosis in 2010. The Austrian dementia report reflects a similar trend. In 2013 64.307 people are suffering from a dementia disease. This trend challenges transportation systems of modern societies which subscribe to values of inclusion which allow for participation in traffic, also under conditions of disability and illness. A number of studies have addressed the limits of traffic participation, e.g. the effects of driving with a dementia disease (driving ability), the effects of driving cessation on people with dementia (burden on families and caregivers), or the dangers arising from cognitive impairments on people with dementia (e.g. wandering behaviour, traffic safety issues).

The preservation of independent mobility of people with dementia (PD), however, is particularly important. It is expected that the promotion of (active) mobility would have positive psychological and medical effects (e.g. delay the course of the disease). This paper presents findings of a qualitative study in which barriers and facilitators for traffic participation have been identified from the perspectives of experts, caregivers, and patients.

A qualitative research design based on case studies was used to investigate the mobility behaviour of PD. Biographic-narrative interviews and mobile methods (walk-alongs) have been combined in order to understand the relationship between individual change due to illness and the situations of traffic participation. To gain a broad overview of different mobility issues related to PD relatives, private caregivers, professional caregivers and experts are also included.

The paper distinguished different forms of barriers and facilitators among them cognitive (e.g. information overload, spatial-visual impairment, situational complexity), social (e.g. stigmatisation, cognitively or emotionally induced conflicts) and physical barriers which are not specific for dementia. Facilitators are spaces which give PDs a feeling of security and which is structured by patterns of orientation which are in line with PDs cognitive capabilities. Findings suggest that caregivers and relatives indirectly influence mobility behaviour of PD. For instance, caregivers and relatives tend to control the general activities, social participation and self-esteem of PD which influences their psychological constitution.

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