As a result, older people and law enforcement officers are crossing paths more frequently, recent data suggests — sometimes with terrible consequences, reported the New York Times.
Consider arrest rates. From 2002 to 2012, the rate fell by 11 percent among those ages 18 to 64, according to federal data analyzed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.
But the arrest rate rose by 23 percent for people over 55. It rose even more markedly — by 28 percent — among those over 65, more than 106,000 of whom were arrested in 2012, the last year for which statistics are available.
“These contacts are occurring more frequently,” said Dr. Brie Williams, a geriatrician and director of the university’s Criminal Justice Aging Project.
Arrests constitute only one measure of involvement, of course. The police are asked to find people with dementia who wander and to bring them home. They stop in for safety checks when family or doctors worry about elders’ welfare.
Especially when people have dementia, “they may be disrupting a neighborhood or engaging aggressively with someone they don’t know, and the police end up being called,” Dr. Williams said. Nursing home staff members, too, may call 911 when they feel unable to handle belligerent patients.
Here are some horrible interactions between the elderly and law enforcement:
At a residence for older adults in San Francisco last summer, Carol King momentarily left a common sitting area. When Ms. King returned, she found that another resident had taken her chair, a nurse who witnessed the episode later reported. She grabbed the usurper’s wrist.
Though staff members intervened promptly and nobody appeared injured, the other resident (who also had dementia) called 911 to say she had been attacked. Soon, Ms. King’s son, Geoffrey, was summoned and four police officers arrived.
Over objections from staff members and her son, the officers decided to place Ms. King on an involuntary psychiatric hold, which allows a 72-hour detention when an officer believes someone is unable to care for herself or poses a danger to herself or others.
As they searched and handcuffed Ms. King and placed her in a patrol car, “she started crying,” Mr. King recalled.
At the Psychiatric Emergency Services department at San Francisco General Hospital, a psychiatrist found Ms. King “calm and cooperative,” showing no evidence of psychiatric illness, and released her after seven hours after she was detained.
■ A county sheriff’s deputy in Minneapolis, Kan., used a Taser on a 91-year-old nursing home resident with Alzheimer’s who refused to get into a car for a doctor’s visit.
■ After a 65-year-old in San Jose, Calif., was arrested and charged with trespassing, a judge — informed that the man had Alzheimer’s — dismissed the charge. But deputies at the jail released him before a friend arrived to pick him up, and he wandered onto a highway, was hit by a car and killed.
■ In Bakersfield, Calif., a 73-year-old man with dementia was walking in his neighborhood late at night when a woman he approached noticed something in his pocket that she thought might have been a gun. When the police arrived and told him to raise his hands, he ignored their shouts, walked toward them and was shot and killed. The object in his pocket proved to be a crucifix.
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