My subject for today is not directly related to Alzheimer’s disease. I am concerned about families who may have a loved one being treated for depression, for some form of mental illness, or even frontal temperal dementia who may find themselves in an emergency situation where their loved one is in harm’s way for having stopped taking their medication or who may have never sought medical care in the first place.
Though it has been 55 years since a particularly stressful time for my family, I remember those days in late May of 1960 as though they were yesterday. Our dad had experienced depression and was having great difficulty fulfilling his responsibilities as a United Methodist minister. His doctor recommended he take some time away to rest for a few weeks, perhaps to the seacoast where he might relax and renew his spirits.
Though money was tight, our mother was in favor of the trip. And so our dad took a bus the 400 miles to the South Carolina coast where he stayed at a B&B our family had enjoyed the year before. He had been gone less than a week when the B&B owner called my mother to come get him, that she could no longer keep him as a guest.
I had just gotten home from my first year in college when the call came through. That very day my mother, 12-year-old brother, and I quickly packed a few things and headed for the coast. In those days my mother did not have a driver’s license, so the driving was up to me. We did not stop, driving all night, and pulled into the B&B around 8 the next morning.
Our dad was totally out of control. I remember how distressed and helpless we felt, not knowing where to turn. After a couple of days of unsuccessfully trying to coax our dad to come home with us, our mom finally called our dad’s brother in Virginia, who hired an ambulance. An emergency physician was picked up from the local hospital to administer a powerful sedative to get our dad back to Virginia where he received treatment at a psychiatric hospital.
I now know our dad was suffering at age 46 from frontal temperal dementia.
Recently when a friend confided in me her distress regarding the well being of her adult son, who suffers from mental illness and lives away from home in another part of the state, I remembered how it was for our family when my dad was ill.
A state licensed physician specializing in psychiatry in our city has this recommendation for families who may have a loved one in need of emergency psychiatric care who will not seek help voluntarily:
The family can call their county Probate Court and ask for the Mental Health Desk, who can advise regarding the next step. If there is an agency like Netcare, then the family can call them and request a Prescreener to go to the patient’s residence and evaluate him or her for possible hospitalization.
As an alternative the family can file an affidavit of mental illness with the probate judge. If the affidavit is accepted, the judge will authorize the sheriff to pick up the patient and take him to an emergency room or other screening facility for evaluation.
I am sorry to be unable to make any suggestion for readers living outside the United States.