The older woman with dementia I wrote about over two weeks ago who was arrested and put in Albany County jail is still there. This is one of the most glaring failures and indictments of our health and human services systems I have ever heard of. Fortunately, steps are being taken to place her in a local nursing home as soon as a bed is found. If it wasn’t for the persistence of her friends, her family lawyer and the intervention and collaboration of advocates and the Alzheimers Association, she might be languishing in jail even longer. It was because of the failings of the Albany County adult protective services staff that others had to step in and get a plan for the woman to be released. The county staff apparently was just letting the case be handled in the courts rather than being proactive and try to find a solution. They felt she was safe in jail and they saw no need to expedite a referral and placement elsewhere. I know this because an inquiry I made revealed that Albany County adult protective services does not even have an open case or caseworker assigned to this woman.
Let me be very clear about this: this woman’s human rights have been violated. She has been in jail for over a month. It has been almost three weeks since a mental health evaluation revealed dementia. The social services administration in Albany County has opted for jail as a housing and treatment strategy for this woman rather than expedite a solution. For all the talk of care coordination and supporting family caregivers, the woman’s son was left alone without calls and emails returned. He was promised a plan of action three weeks ago and never heard anything further.
After she gets out of jail and is settled, I will be working with others to get a thorough review and high level of investigation of Albany County’s handling of this case as well as exploring a formal action to determine whether the human rights of this woman in her 60s with dementia were violated. No investigation is needed though to determine that this woman and her son have been treated disrespectfully.
It is up to all of us to be advocates for our family member and friends. Never assume that the “system” is going to always protect the vulnerable. There is not an intention to do harm, but I think we constantly have to speak up and say this is not the way we would want our own mother or relative or friend to be treated.