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Baker Act Harms Elderly with Dementia and Alzheimer's

by | Mar 1, 2017

In Citrus County Florida alone, 20 percent of all those Baker acted have either dementia or Alzheimer’s


The Baker Act, a Florida law which allows judges, law enforcement officers, doctors and mental health officials to initiate a process to involuntarily institutionalize those exhibiting mental illness is especially dangerous for the elderly. If an older person suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s, the act of being committed against their will is painfully upsetting.
The transport itself can be disorienting but when that is followed by a separation from all that is familiar, including loved ones and caregivers the experience can be traumatic. Being then placed in a group of people who are suffering from mental illness can be extremely frightening to these fragile seniors.
In Citrus County Florida alone, 20 percent of all those Baker acted have either dementia or Alzheimer’s.
The site Coping with Dementia gives additional advice, “For the care personnel at the psychiatric centers there should be full dementia caregiver training to avoid further trauma, physical harm, and human suffering among individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia. And such individuals should never be placed in a general population of drug addicts, psychotics, and suicidal patients. Today they are. Just imagine a frightened and confused elder with dementia being thrown into such an environment. For them, it is bedlam, and how can that help, either with assessment or treatment?”
The article continues:
“…For example, the law requires that your loved one will be placed under observation for a minimum of 72 hours, during which you may not see or visit them. But, often the “72 hours” will coincide with a weekend, and you may not be able to see or communicate with them for four or five days. Think about how they will feel and react to this period of isolation in an alien environment. 1
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are not mentally caused illnesses. Both have physical causes and are related to impairments of the brain itself. 2
CCHR FL (Citizens Committee on Human Rights of  Florida) has documented many cases where an elderly patient was severely abused by psychiatrists and other mental health workers after being improperly Baker Acted by an ignorant neighbor, police officer or medical personnel.
90 Year Old Veteran Baker Acted Unjustly
The son of a 90 year old, three war veteran reported an outrageous misuse of the Baker Act to CCHR FL.
The elderly father was in an independent living center, paying for daily assistance with meds, getting to meals, daily hygiene and other normal tasks. He suffers from short term memory loss and has early onset of dementia, which is why he pays for the extra daily help.
The video between this gentleman and the people who committed him proves there was absolutely no reason for the actions taken that deprived him of his rights. Rather, a degrading and demeaning interview by the deputy with such questions as “Why were you in Korea…to bomb the country?” ensued.
There was information in plain view in the man’s room with information on his medical condition and family contact data. The veteran stated he was not allowed to contact his son.
This is taken from the CCHR report, “The veteran’s wife passed away in 1995 and his eldest child passed in 2014. He has stated thousands of times over the years that he is ready to die and never wanted to live to be 90 years old. He states it daily and his stock answer to questions of how he’s feeling is ‘Weak, wobbly and ready to die’. The veteran has never mentioned anything about suicide or hurting himself or anyone else. In fact, in answering the security guards question if he was thinking about suicide, the veteran says no and explains that that would mean an eternity in hell.”
Yet this man was Baker Acted.
Woman Dies after Psychiatric Abuse
There are even more horrific stories, such as that of a 57 year old Orthodox Jewish woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. She was Baker Acted in December of 2014 and subsequently committed by court order the following February.
After being transferred to Northeast Florida State Hospital (NEFSH) from Circles of Care in July 2015, the nightmare unfolded. Her medical condition worsened, and per her sister’s report, she had been attacked by other patients and had fallen and had many bruises. She was disoriented and her physical coordination was impaired by the medication. She was also given surgery not recommended for dementia patients. She was often dehydrated and improperly fed.
On January 21, 2016 this woman was found unresponsive. Several doctors and staff revived her, but she was then left at the psychiatric ward for the night, dehydrated and starving. Her regular medical doctor demanded she be transferred to the medical ward, and an argument with the psychiatrist ensued. The psychiatrist insisted the patient’s condition was mental, not medical. However, when the medical doctor demanded all psychotropic drugs be discontinued, she (the medical doctor) was abruptly removed from the patient’s care.
Making a horrific situation even worse, the patient lost her ability to speak English. She reverted to her native tongue, which was Hebrew. The medical staff could no longer understand even a simple request for a glass of water.
Her sister tried repeatedly to get the suffering woman into a skilled nursing home that would be religious and language appropriate, and in fact three excellent facilities were discovered and gave admission acceptance. But the doctors, nurse and administrative staff at Northeast Florida State Hospital blocked the transfer, stating she should remain in a locked Assisted Living Facility.
The patient died in May of 2016.
These are only two examples of the many injustices created by Baker Acting elderly people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Since psychiatrists often prey on those least able to defend themselves (children and frail elderly) it is crucial that the full extent of the law be implemented in prosecuting them for any and all crimes committed in the name of “help”.
Sources:
1    http://coping.today/for-people-with-dementia-beware-of-the-baker-act/
2    https://www.ourparents.com/care-topics/2015/03/26/dementia-and-mental-illness-is-dementia-a-psychiatric-disorder/

21 Comments

  1. Audrey

    My Mom has dementia and she has become a nuisance in her 55+ condo community by getting confused and asking which her building is, if there is anything fun going on in her clubhouse. They are sick of it and want her moved in with family or in a home. Moving her with family is not an option and faculties are 4+k/month. We hire aids, companions to her home but she is a free woman and will get out to ask someone a confusing question. Especially when her first language is Spanish and there is a language barrier. She owns her condo and has been there for 20 years and she just gets bored and goes for walks and has become bothersome to people. The condo association has instructed everyone to call the cops if they see my mom asking a question or looks confused. I’m worried that they will be correct her. I have two brothers in the area but they cannot house her so we are just trying to keep her home as long as possible until we can move her into a facility. What rights does the condo association have and would they immediately Baker act her and not call her family first to see what we have in place. Elderly services contacted me and told me that we are doing a good job and all she needs is a little bit more socialization so she doesn’t get herself in trouble or bother people. However the condo is not happy with this evaluation saying that a two hour conversation is an enough to know my mom.

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Your mother has rights. One of our advocates will email you or you may call 800-782-2878 and ask to speak with Eileen.

    • Mourning Warbler

      Compassion. Why don’t people have compassion? Is it the medicare money they’re going for? I am so sorry for what has happened to your mom and others. The Baker Act is not being used as it was intended.

  2. Linda Goldberg

    Additional note to my last post on July 9th – If you have a loved one who you think is getting treated unfairly in a nursing home, please immediately call the local ombudsman. Their job is to investigate nursing homes. I did not even know what an ombudsman was until my mother died, so it was too late for them to help my family. I have been, however, contacting FL politicians, AHCA, DCF, etc. regarding the fact much needs to improve for Seniors with various forms of dementia in FL. Given my family’s experience, there is so much wrong with the system. To me, the Baker Act is totally unacceptable for these vulnerable and needy seniors. Please contact police as well (as my family did) if you suspect any senior mistreatment. MISTREATMENT OF SENIORS SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING!!!

    Reply
  3. Linda Goldberg

    It is so distressing and unacceptable to me that Seniors who suffer from forms of dementia are permitted to be Baker-acted given the experience and transitions involved are so traumatic on the Senior–and their families. My beloved mother died on May 24th, 2019. It is my contention had she gotten the United Medicaid LTC service she required (an Adult Companion), which I fought for her to get with appeals and even an AHCA hearing given there was no appropriate Medicaid-paid locked memory daycare in Daytona for her, she would be alive today. My efforts were futile; she died before a decision was made – seven months of fighting for her and waiting endlessly for decisions. I did everything I could as a daughter living in MA to keep her out of the nursing homes. Unfortunately, not only did my loving mother suffer the trauma of entering a nursing home memory care unit-Oceanview in New Smyrna, she then suffered the trauma of quickly being Baker-acted (although she had a UTI known to affect behavior) to Halifax Psych Unit in Daytona followed by her going directly to Indigo Palms Memory Care in Daytona where she endured her final trauma during first night (please never send a loved one there).Thankfully, family members went there to bring her some things and saw her in unacceptable condition in an unsafe environment. Family members took her out, and a police report was filed. By the following day, my mother was so traumatized, she required hospice’s 24/7 in-home crisis care until she died the following week…. I understand people with dementia or Alzheimer’s decline, but not as my mother did…To me, my mother would be alive today had she gotten the in-home care from Medicaid that she required. I have been trying to speak out to anyone who will listen to my mother’s story – it should not be like this – please speak out as well- contact AHCA, DCF, Rubio, your local ombudman, DeSantis, your Mayor, Elder Affairs, etc.Things must improve for the Seniors in FL who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s and are in need of help by the government. These seniors have paid taxes the longest, and they are getting the least back. It is unacceptable how so many of these people are being mistreated; Baker-acting them should never be permitted, assisted living places calling themselves memory care communities should not be permitted if residents are only provided with limited supervision like two-hour checks rather than the 24/7 supervision they often require. They should also never be behind doors to their personal rooms locked from the outside. How unsafe! I pray and will advocate the best I can now that I know what it is like for these vulnerable seniors in need who cannot speak up for themselves. To me, the state of FL needs to try MUCH harder to keep these elders at home with caregiver support,when that is requested by Family, rather than have these poor soles taken out of their homes and put into asst. living or nursing homes where, too many times, they do not get what they need and deserve..

    Reply
  4. Jeanine

    My 65 year old mother with Alzheimer’s Dementia was recently Baker Acted on Wednesday. We just moved her down here to florida from New York where she lived all her life, to what I thought was a wonderful Memory Care Assisted Living home. The transition has not been easy for her at all, removing her from the only home she ever knew, and placing her in a very different environment. I stepped in and started taking care of her full time 3 years ago, but couldn’t afford the assisted living in NY so we moved to florida. She had an episode in which she had a moment of aggression and pushed another patient, Nd the nursing director and head nurse decided to Baker Act her. They did call me to tell me, and I didn’t really know what was the correct thing to do. I never thought it would be like this. My poor mom who is still adjusting to change is now in a mental health Behavioral Center where she is amongst people of all ages with serious mental issues. I saw her today and literally cried when I saw her because she was completely disheveled and very anxious, not to mention half naked! Exposed completely! I was IRATE! The nursing director was extremely rude and provided
    No help or answers regarding my mom, and I was completely frustrated. Of course she’s anxious and confused. She doesn’t know anyone, they are rough with her and very rude. I had to give her a shower and change her diaper. I mean, I’m at a loss. They informed me that a judge is coming to the faculty next week to decide whether she gets to stay or leave depending on the psychiatric evaluation that was done without me be there, when I am the POA! She can’t answer any questions! She can’t even tell what day it is. How did all this happen from her having a bad moment at the assisted living home to her going into a home where she is not being taken care of. She’s scared, angry, anxious, confused. I’m knew to Florida and I don’t know the laws around here or what can be done. I’m scared we made a huge mistake.

    Reply
    • CCHR

      A person with Alzheimer’s Dementia does not legally meet the criteria for a Baker Act. Please call 800-782-2878.

  5. ML

    The system stinks OK how can I tell you everything that I witnessed from being baker acted against my will because somebody was worried about me and they thought they were doing a good thing for me but what I witnessed at lifestream facility in Florida Lady Lake County was un comprehendible ! They put a patient with dementia in with all the psychos the alcoholics, drug attic‘s , schizophrenics, Paranoids, The suicidal patients the Looney Tunes OK and I didn’t see when it was time to eat one nurse or nurses aide help open the orange juice that you had to peel the foil off of I didn’t see them help her get her food I helped her I seen her dump her syrup In her water That was supposed to be for her pancakes anyway hi seen tears in her eyes
    When the crazies ganged up on her, she started spitting! then she got the nickname the spitter, because she fought back with her spit because they were going to beat the shit out of her so my rage right now against the Florida mental health system is really Real !
    How dare somebody treat a beautiful mother this way God bless her and I hope and I have faith that God will answer and bring into light how lifestream is treating the patients the elderly and I had to sleep on a mattress on the floor because they have no room in the system so we were locked up worse than prisoners with all theVarious different issues and treated like the scum of the world !
    I can go into more detail if you want

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Someone will contact you about the abuse you witnessed. Thank you for speaking up.

  6. Sandra

    My Father-in-Law is currently Baker Acted and this is his second time he has dementia and Alzheimer’s and my mother-in-law can no longer take care of him. We tried putting him in a memory care but he acted out and that’s how he got Baker Acted the second time. He has been sedated and not given time or medication to help him. He gets frustrated and anxious then he acts out. He is pending the Medicaid Wavier for LTC but right now he is in a crisis center waiting on placement and sleeping in a Geri-chair. We can’t seem to find a facility to take him and help us get treatment.

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Please call 800-782-2878 and ask for Pat.

  7. Deborah

    My mother has early dementia most likely but will not get any help! I am considering Baker Act because she’s abusing my father physically and mentally now. How do you get help to someone who does not want it?

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Unless your mother has a co-occurring mental illness diagnosis, Baker Acting her would be a violation of the law and her rights. Please contact us at 800-782-2878 and ask for a copy of our resource list. This may help you with solutions.

  8. Deeanna Wilson

    I left a message with my ohone number, thank you

    Reply
    • CCHR

      You’re welcome.

  9. Deeanna Wilson

    how do we take legal recourse for someone who has been placed under Baker’s Act in Florida? 84 year old with dementia- placed in the hospital by the senior living facility he was living at.

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Someone from our office will contact you or you may call 800-782-2878 and ask to speak to an advocate. All of our help is free of charge.

  10. Patty

    Most psychiatric facilities do not want patient’s with dementia to be Baker Acted because once they are it makes it difficult to find a facility that wants to take them because they have the stigma of being a psychiatric patients. These two are out of many where staff have tried very hard to get patients into the proper facility. We get angry when the Law Enforcement drops dementia patients off or hospital’s Baker Act them. I don’t know of any psychiatric staff that believe they belong in a psych facility. We can not help them because it is a neuro disorder. I feel bad about this situation but if anyone is to be blamed for dementia patients ending up at psych facilities it is Law Enforcement and Hospital’s. The hospitals don’t want to be bothered with finding them a place to go so they ship them off to psych using a mental status change as the reason. We’ve even had families call law enforcement because they can’t handle their loved one anymore and instead of finding a facility they let law enforcement bring them to us. If we wanted to take care of dementia patients we would have went into geriatrics. Believe me we are as angry as you.

    Reply
  11. Theresa

    HOw can I get my Dementia sister out of a Baker Acted facility Her husband called 911 to get help but the help he got was getting her baker acted. He was ask if he wanted to baker act her and he said no and told them she had Dementia. They told him he could leave then baker acted her without calling anther family member e or her children. Please help me

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Please call us at 800-782-2878

  12. Felicia

    So how do we get our loved ones with ALZ placed IN a safe LTC facility when we are just over the income limit and DCF WONT COMMUNICATE how to navigate the system. Legal Aid is you get what you pay for, nothing! Lawyers want all your money or nothing.

    Reply

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