Prison and Dementia: New Story and Video about A Hidden Population of Those with Dementia and Their Caregivers

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By Kathy Kelly, MPA, Executive Director at Family Caregiver Alliance As part of the Vanishing Mind series about Alzheimer's in the New York Times, an article and video entitled, Life, With Dementia is a compelling account of a hidden population of prisoners with Alzheimer’s disease. The prison profiled in the video is in California where an estimated 13,000 inmates are over the age of 55 and expected to rise due to sentencing laws in the state. Who are the caregivers? Other inmates called “Gold Coats” due to color of their coats as opposed to all others who wear blue. Trained by internal prison staff and members of the Alzheimer’s Association, the Gold Coats provide assistance similar to the tasks performed by personal care assistants in the outside world – help with bathing, dressing, eating, grooming, playing memory games and keeping a watchful eye for abuse of their charges by other inmates. The incidence of dementia is expected to rise within this population due to some higher risk factors: hypertension, diabetes, depression, substance abuse and possible head injuries from fights and other violence. And indeed the prison population profiled are violent offenders sentenced for murder. What makes this particularly compelling is the effect of caregiving on the Gold Coats – the allowance to be empathic and compassionate in a severely structured environment for those serving time for the most violent of human acts. For the prisons, it is a matter of practicality: they do not have the money to pay for personal care services. But ultimately, it is a video and article that just might raise more questions than it answers. Check out: Life, With Dementia


Kathy Kelly,MPA, Executive Director of Family Caregiver Alliance CALIFORNIA PRISON of Men Please pass this on to the GOLDCOATS with GOLD HEARTS ! I can't describe the words... In my opinion, The men known as GOLDCOATS also have HEARTS OF GOLD ! In California the system is training men in prison how to help and care for their elders with dementia. It's sad that these men are kept there but is wonderful that they have friends around them to support them. I'm sitting here in Ontario Canada trying to support Mother through her dementia and also the elder abuse by other family members. All Mom and many other people with dementia need is gentle guidance and support. Most people affected are capable to understand their memory is failing them. The legal fees to protect Mom and her Powers of Attorneys are outrageously costly but she's our Mom. It is sad, that some family judge and challenge her capabilities to do some things and still make some choices and decisions. Many others, professionals included hide the Abuse. Many of the real criminals are out in the community. I commend the guys who have taken on the responsibility of looking out for their Elders. Please remind them to allow the Elders with Dementia choices and decisions, no matter how small.Let them keep as much independence as possible and let them guide and direct you. The guys with dementia need relationships with supportive people that they can trust to show them dignity and respect. GOLD COATS, This may sound kind of well funny or ?!something but Thanks for being there for these elder guys and others with dementia. We are people who appreciate your work. My husband and I ADVOCATE for ELDERS and we don't get paid in dollar amounts either but we are REWARDED every day or time we get to spend with our elderly Mom and others with Dementia. That's what counts and makes it all meaningful. KATHY KELLY - Please keep us updated on how the program is working, email. More next time.