Older Woman with Dementia Held in Albany County Jail for Violating Restraining Order

The plight of an older woman in her 60s  illustrates the need for change in how we deal with people with dementia.  It came to my attention a couple weeks ago that this woman who I know was in Albany County jail for violating a restraining order .  Apparently, she had become quite hostile and harassing of a local establishment which she tended to visit several times  a day.  Of course, the hostility is a symptom of the dementia.  The shop got a restraining order against the woman and when she violated it she was arrested.  Friends from church wrote to the judge urging him to have the woman’s case handled through the health system and not the criminal justice system.

As of the end of last week, she was still in jail and hopefully she will be placed somewhere else soon.  While in the mental health unit of the jail they did a mental health evaluation that concluded she has Alzheimers.  The hostility was out of character for her and certainly was responsible for her arrest.

In my mind, she should have been bailed out and put in a facility while the evaluation was done, but the county’s adult protective services said there was no place to take her to.  She has a son who is trying to understand and deal with all this and is going to seek guardianship for his mother.  His mother also has been scammed and apparently lost thousands of dollars.

Fortunately, the local Alzheimers Association chapter has caseworkers who can help the son and his mother.  They will help refer him for legal assistance regarding the guardianship.   And, they told me that if the scam losses were on a credit card, they may be able to have them eliminated  if the credit card had disability insurance.

I hesitate to make grand judgments on cases like this when I was not the one having to deal with it for the county.  However, I do feel that we must deal with people who have dementia and Alzheimers outside of the criminal justice system.  Of course, there was a concern about housing or being admitted to a facility and many don’t want someone who is disruptive.  So, there are issues related to medication but that begs the point that a geriatrician should be involved in these cases.  The geriatrician  can work with neurologists, and aging and health providers to make sure that these types of jail situations can be avoided or quickly addressed to provide the kind of treatment and care that this woman and others need.

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I have been a senior advocate for most of my career. I was Executive Director of the New York StateWide Senior Action Council and the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans. In 2007-2010 I was the Director of the New York State Office for the Aging

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