Friday, June 11, 2010


The other night when I come into work, I am informed during briefing that we were currently housing a 78 year old man with Alzheimer's. He is being held on a misdemeanor charge of Harassment - Domestic Violence, and has a $2000.00 bond. Beings as this is a weekend evening, he will have to sit in jail until he can see a judge Monday morning.

We contact the family, who in no un-certain terms state they will not be bonding him out and will not bring the myriad of medications he requires.

My facility has a nursing staff - no doctors on site. We have an on call doctor at all times, but the Nursing staff is responsible for all medical issues. If a medical issue arises that cannot be monitored or dealt with by the Nursing staff then that inmate is transported to the local hospital. We are a jail, we are not equipped to handle severe and/or ongoing medical issues. Considering that the inmates are with us three days or less, there is not a lot we can do for major medical issues. As such, there is no way we can properly care for and treat someone with Alzheimer's or Dementia. We are all trained in First Aid for acute injuries but not for a condition such as that. If some one's heart stops beating, I will do CPR until the Paramedics arrive. If someone is bleeding from an artery, I can apply pressure and a tourniquet until the Paramedics arrive. If someone is choking to death, I can clear the airway and stabilize them until the Paramedics arrive. If someone gets a head injury, I can ensure they are breathing and keep their neck and back straight until the Paramedics arrive. If someone has a seizure, I can keep them safe from hurting themselves and choking until the Paramedics arrive. Does anyone see a pattern there? I am trained in pretty basic First Aid - enough to stabilize someone until the medical professionals arrive. I can do the best I can with the training I have received, but I'm not able to treat a long term condition.

Without going into too much detail, the reason this man was arrested was, in my opinion, bullshit. I don't know much about Alzheimer's, but I do know that in some cases it can cause the patient to act out physically. This man did not cause anyone injury and he did not damage anything, yet he was brought to jail. I'm pretty sure that having a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer's means he is not mentally competent enough to understand the nature of his actions. Plus, if I woke up everyday not being able to know where I was or who the people I was around were, I would probably be pretty irritated too. Just saying.

I really try to not get personally involved in the lives on the inmates that come into my facility, but every time I looked at this man I saw my grandfather, and it absolutely broke my heart. He had to be told repeatedly where he was and why he was there, and he couldn't understand it. About every two hours he would fold up his blanket, pack up his books, and let us know he was ready to go home. And every time I would have to explain it to him it just broke his and my heart. This man's memory span was about 90 minutes. Can you imagine not being able to have a short term memory of more than 90 minutes?

Since it was a weekend, we had to keep this gentleman in our facility until he could have what we call a mental health eval ordered by the court on Monday morning. There are no mental health resources available to us on the weekends or after hours (which is another post for another time), so we had to keep him until that could be done. Since his medical problem was not considered emergent, we couldn't take him to a local hospital. And his family, his wife and children, adamantly refused to post his bond or even bring in his medications. We were really stuck between a rock and a hard place. I know every officer in my facility, even the ones with the most hardened hearts, was affected by this man. We all went far above and beyond to make sure this man was taken care of extremely well and was as comfortable as we could make him, which unfortunately is not much. For two days we all dealt with this man, and I can't think of one officer who was ok with the situation.

So Monday morning rolls around and we take this gentleman over to court. Naturally the judge orders a mental health evaluation, which shockingly decides he isn't competent. Well no shit, Sherlock! The judge issues a Personal Recognizance bond, which means that he can be released from jail with no bond, and will have to follow up with the court at a later time to take care of the charges. The mental health people put an "M1" hold, which is a mental health hold, so we make arrangements to transport this guy over to the local hospital.

We contact the family to let them know what is going on, and THEY DON'T CARE. Apparently they had been dealing with this disease for several years and, verbatim quote, "They just couldn't take it anymore". They are basically washing their hands of the situation. So now once this guy gets over to the hospital, our local version of Social Services will have to find a placement home for him that can provide the care he desperately needs. He obviously can't take care of himself and now his family has abandoned him. Can you imagine what this poor guy had to be going through? He had been taken away from everything he has ever known; his wife, his home, his family - thrown into a small cold jail cell, now he is going to the hospital and will end up in a Nursing Home with a bunch of people he has never known. He will end up dying in that Nursing Home alone.

I am not a hateful person, perhaps I am a little too idyllic. I really do try to see the good in people and understand that they have loved ones and lives. But how could someone do this to their own husband or father? I don't like to wish ill will on anybody but damn do I hope these people get the Karma they deserve. How could you just ship your father off to a nursing home alone and not care? I understand the frustration and issues that they must have been through in dealing with this, and I get how they could get burned out. But I could never send my father away and just *hope* that the state deals with him right. I would never make my father a ward of the state! If needed, I would get my father into a Nursing Home where he could get the care that I couldn't provide, but I would NEVER abandon him! These people, who I have admittedly never met, are hateful, heartless individuals. I don't care what other redeeming qualities they might have; actions speak louder than words. How could you throw your own father away and not give a shit?!

I wish the state would charge his family with neglect, but I know it would never happen. I hope that this gentleman does get placed in a Nursing Home where he will get the care he needs. I know this post sounds angry, and that is because this situation makes me mad as hell. It breaks my heart. I hope that this man's family gets exactly what they deserve.


  1. I don't understand how they can just turn their backs on him. He most likely did the things he was supposed to do like work and provide for them and this is how he is treated. I think I would want to spend as much time as possible with him as I could. If he is still having some lucid moments I would want to be there.

    It's what family does.

  2. Dear J.M.,
    Without wishing to excuse this family, because I don't-- caretaking Alzheimer's or any brain injury is a terrible job. And they could be exhausted.

    But to refuse to bring his meds--to refuse to do one freaking thing--that tells the true tale. It's just not even human.

    Ann T.

  3. I had to go though a similar situation with my own father. After he had a debilitating stroke, Dad's memory would 'reset' every 11 minutes, and the first five questions would never change. Where are we? How did I come to be here? Where is my watch? When are we taking off?

    I don't remember the fifth question right now, but time would pass and he'd start up again. The worst situation happened when some son of a bitch psychiatrist asked Dad for the third time how he felt, and he said he was miserable. How miserable? Miserable, that's how. Dad couldn't walk, couldn't go to the head by himself, could not understand why he was in a strange place surrounded by people who claimed to be trying to help him, yet wouldn't help him leave. Finally, in response to the incessant antagonistic questions said, "I wish I was dead."

    That was what they were waiting for. They locked Dad in the psyche unit for a three day 'evaluation' and he was allowed limited visitation. Oh, and the psychiatrist? She wasn't available to talk to anyone, had no office nor phone number. No one could reach her.

    This man, even though he was in jail, got better care from you folks than he'd get in a psyche unit, and very likely better care then he was getting at home. If his family was exhausted and couldn't care for him, or if they needed a break, okay. But to refuse to bring his medication to the jail? There should be a law against that.

  4. When the jail takes custody of him they are taking responsibility for him, and providing for his health and welfare. That includes meds, in my opinion. What if they didn't have a car, and the jail was a two hour bus ride away?

    We should also remember that this man could have been a tyrant. Families have all sorts of history. We've all heard of kind gentle people who cuss up a storm once dementia takes hold. If he was in jail for assault he was likely a handful and a half at home, and probably pretty unpleasant to be around. They needed the break, and it says a lot that they cared enough to try to keep him at home.