Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I had an interesting experience last weekend, although not a unique experience. I have a friend and colleague who is a private professional guardian. She is the guardian for several people, and she gets appointed guardian in situations where the Ward does not have anyone to act as guardian.

One of her Wards is a woman I'll Mae. Mae has dementia, and according to my friend, Mae is not a pleasant person. Mae has children, but they don't want anything to do with her.

My friend called me last Saturday, asking a big favor. It seems that Mae was at a local hospital, having been sent there by her nursing home because she injured one of her caregivers. The hospital medicated her with her some pretty strong anti-psychotic medication, deemed her medically stable, and was putting her in the ambulance to return to the nursing home. The nursing home was refusing to allow Mae to come back without a private sitter in place, for the protection of their staff. And my friend was out of state at a wedding.

For those who are my facebook friends, that's why I spent Sunday afternoon at the psychiatric emergency room at John Peter Smith Hospital.

My friend was able to find a sitter who could stay with Mae Saturday, and she did return to the nursing home. My friend also engaged a private duty service to take over on Sunday, but by Sunday morning Mae had injured the Saturday sitter, and had continued to hurt nursing home staff. The nursing home was done, and insisted that she leave.

Again, long distance and over the phone, my friend arranged for law enforcement and emergency medical responders to take Mae to the psych. ER at JPS. She called me when she could not locate Mae anywhere in the hospital system.

We eventually found Mae in the regular ER, because she had complained of chest pain while on the way to the hospital. She was absolutely calm and non-threatening when I found her. She was mean, but not violent. I stayed with her until we got her admitted to the psychiatric unit.

My friend cut her trip short to come back to Fort Worth for a couple of days to get Mae situated in an Alzheimer's facility that I helped her locate, and she's leaving again today to finish the rest of her vacation. So I might yet be called out again to help with Mae.

Some of you reading this may identify with this situation. Our medical system has no good way to deal with those people with dementia who also have behavior issues, including violent and aggressive behaviors. There is something inherently wrong with having police take a frail, 76 year old woman to be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric unit. Regular hospitals are unable to provide the medication management required in a situation like this, and a guardian has no legal authority to admit a Ward to a psychiatric hospital. The nursing home clearly had no idea how to manage the behavior, and Alzheimer's units like the one Mae went to yesterday, where they do know how to manage the behavior are incredibly expensive (over $5000 a month). Mae is lucky she can afford to live there.

I don't know what the answer is, but we are going to have to find a better solution, because the numbers of people with dementia will only grow as the population continues to grow older. I'd love to hear any ideas.

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