Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Community, Dementia, and Risk: A Tragedy in Georgia

Writer Kim Severson at the New York Times reports on the death of 72-year old Ronald Westbrook, shot by Georgia homeowner Joe Hendrix after trying to gain entrance to  Hendrix's home:

"In the confusion that comes from Alzheimer’s, Mr. Westbrook had taken to collecting the mail from neighbors’ mailboxes. He was doing so that night on Marbletop Road, which is a mile or so from his home. He told the deputy he lived in a nearby house, which at one time, years ago, he had. 'Better get home,' the deputy said. 'It’s cold.'       


The deputy drove on, and Mr. Westbrook, in a straw hat and a jacket too light for the weather, continued walking with his dogs. Just before 4 a.m., he was nearly three miles from home in the subdivision of modest new houses where Mr. Hendrix lives, near Chattanooga."

While the NYT story focuses mostly on the fear, confusion, and potential impact of Stand Your Ground laws, as factors potentially contributing to the older man's death, I am reminded of another story I blogged about earlier, where a wandering man with early onset dementia ended up in jail, only to suffer a brutal beating at the hands of a cellmate when authorities failed to recognize the implications of the man's confusion. Ironically, that case too was in Georgia. 

In both instances, it seems that public authorities arguably had a chance to shepherd their wandering citizens to a safer setting.

Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s | Permalink

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