Standards proposed for dealing with some dementia sufferersA legislative committee has drafted a bill that will standardize the process for detaining and treating someone suffering from dementia if they pose a risk to themselves or the public.
By: By Gilman Halsted, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
A legislative committee has drafted a bill that will standardize the process for detaining and treating someone suffering from dementia if they pose a risk to themselves or the public.
If approved, the bill will close a gap in state law created by a 2010 state Supreme Court ruling. The ruling made a distinction between people suffering from a mental illness and someone suffering from dementia. State Rep. Penny Bernard Shaber is vice chair of the committee that drafted the bill.
"One is considered to be treatable where you can improve it and make it better,” Shaber said. “And dementia, the other one is considered to be a progressive disorder where you can change the behaviors but you can't change the underlying dementia."
The Supreme Court ruling makes it difficult to involuntarily detain someone with dementia in a locked psychiatric ward for treatment. If they can't be detained they could end up hurting themselves or others. Waukesha Assistant District Attorney Rob Mueller says the bill the committee has drafted will create a new legal niche for such people so law enforcement can detain them and get them committed for treatment, "For a short period of time with specific safeguards to allow for the treatment that doctors believe they need at that time. It's designed to be a short term intervention, not a long term placement."
The committee also endorsed a state Department of Health Services plan to redesign the state's system for delivering long term care services so that county health care departments, nursing homes and law enforcement can better serve people suffering from dementia.