May 13, 2015

What about people with dementia who don't have families?

When asked she couldn’t tell people where she lived. The police were called into help. By the fourth time they were called even the police were exasperated at the situation.

I have clients that got me thinking about the question of:  What will happen to people dementia who are without families to help them?

What about people with dementia | Alzheimer's Reading Room

Note from Bob DeMarco. When I first heard this story from Carole I was completely discombobulated. I felt sad. Obviously, there is more to the story than we can print here. It took a lot of hard work; and, there are not many people who can do what Carole does. As usual, Carole took a trying, difficult situation, and somehow turned into positive. Carole Larkin is clearly a go to person when the situation seems hopeless and overwhelming.

I encourage you to read the story below. I think every person between the ages of 25 and 50 should read this story. We already know that many of them will find themselves in a similar situation with their odler "loves ones" sooner or later.

God bless Carole and the nephew.

Carole Larkin MA,CMC,CAEd,QDCS,EICS,
is a Geriatric Care Manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues. She also trains caregivers in home care companies, assisted livings, memory care communities, and nursing homes in dementia specific techniques for best care of dementia sufferers. ThirdAge Services LLC, is located in Dallas, TX.
By Carole Larkin
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Here was the case that got me thinking about this.

There are two sisters who have never married living together in an apartment. One sister kept leaving the house by car or on foot and getting lost, or showing up at strange places, like going to her bank thinking that she was going to a doctor’s appointment.

When asked she couldn’t tell people where she lived. The police were called into help. By the fourth time they were called even the police were exasperated at the situation.

The other sister clearly was at a loss as to what to do about this, so called her nephew asking for help.

The nephew called me (I am helping him with his wife, who has early onset Alzheimer’s). My introduction to this whole scenario was the nephew on the phone to me saying, the police want to know where to take his aunt. That was pretty much all the information I had to go on. My answer was, to the closest emergency room, trying to see if there was something physically wrong to cause her to elope (escape).

It turns out that nothing physical was found, but mid stage dementia was diagnosed. 

By the way they had to put a bed alarm on her bed because she kept trying to escape in the hospital.

Ultimately, we had three days to find someplace with a secure (locked doors) unit to take her, and this was over a weekend, when admissions offices in these places are closed. We managed to get it done, amazingly.

The aunt was convinced to go willingly, more amazing even. She had to go willingly, as there were no powers of attorney existing. The nephew didn’t know anything about the aunt’s income or assets, or whether she could even afford the place.

He stepped up and paid the admission fees and first month’s rent. There is now a temporary guardianship in place, he agreed to be guardian to try and keep her safe. Oh by the way, the second sister has dementia too, we discovered. It’s just not progressed as far. That explains why the older sister could elope so easily.

Thank God the nephew decided to step up. Bless him, he didn’t have to; but what about all the people who don’t have someone to step up, or have relatives who won’t step up? What happens to them?

It happens today, and certainly will continue to happen even more in the future, with divorced, childless baby boomers, or boomers that never married in the first place, or even with the very oldest old, who have outlived siblings and other relatives.

I can’t speak for everywhere, but here in Texas, it’s mostly left to Adult Protective Services, who only get involved if it’s a life or death situation. That is because there are so few Adult Protective Services workers, and so many people referred to them that are at risk.

The workers try as hard as they can, but just can’t address it all; there’s just too much. Those people who are addressed by Adult Protective Services can go through the Probate court system and may have a guardian (usually a lawyer) appointed for them, to see that they are safe and taken care of. Lucky them!

But I worry about the others, the ones who don’t make it to the court system, or worse, those who are never discovered. My heart goes out to them.

I worry that the rest of their lives are pain, woe and then death. I wish that there were some additional measures out there that could help them.

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