Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dementia behind bars - California pilot program

I read a fascinating article about the US prison system; California, to be precise.
Happy times in LTC
They have trained convicts in prison to help care for other convicts with dementia. Some want these prisoners paroled and sent to long-term care, but that is no solution.

For those with a history of violence, to be placed with grampa who has had a stroke, and loves to dance, WOULD be criminal.

The US philosophy 'getting tough on crime' has been adopted in Canada, and while we do not have the California three strikes law, prisons are getting crowded. It would be criminal to release these men with violent histories to be cared for by personal support workers (PSWs) with little training in handling violent offenders.

Those in prison age faster than the rest of us. They are at-risk, due to their backgrounds: limited education, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, depression, substance abuse, even head injuries from fights and other violence.

Dementia makes people paranoid and confused.
If you visit the NY Times piece you will be able to watch a video of these men. It is a loving, caring story. Not only that, but these violent offenders, trained to care for their peers with dementia, are finding an opportunity to discover their humanity with these fragile dementia sufferers.

They are paid $50 per month to provide this care, as the state is unable to pay for extra support for these prisoners 24/7.
They seem to be well-trained, and care about their charges.

To quote Secel Montgomery Sr., regarding his client,
"If I go and tell him what to do, he won't follow. He's real independent.
I have to let him tell me when he is ready to make his bed, because it's about him, not me.
You've got to be friends with these guys.
I got a job to do and I'm gonna do it. It don't work like that.
If they don't trust you it's not gonna work."

Life, With Dementia

Secel Montgomery Sr., and other convicted killers at the California Men’s Colony, help care for prisoners with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, assisting ailing inmates with the most intimate tasks: showering, shaving, applying deodorant, even changing adult diapers.

Dementia in prison is an underreported but fast-growing phenomenon, one that many prisons are desperately unprepared to handle. It is an unforeseen consequence of get-tough-on-crime policies — long sentences that have created a large population of aging prisoners. About 10 percent of the 1.6 million inmates in America’s prisons are serving life sentences; another 11 percent are serving over 20 years.

Many states consider over-50 prisoners elderly, saying they age up to 15 years faster.

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