The grim film "Dallas Buyers Club" depicts a time when AIDS was a new epidemic in the late 20th century, with only a few experimental treatments and certainly no cure. The legal issues hammered in the movie were primarily about the legality of certain drugs in the U.S. The establishment came off looking pretty bad and the rogue seller of drugs unapproved in the U.S. as a folk hero. That was then.
The 21st century epidemic is dementia. According to Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI), by 2050 there will be 135 million cases worldwide. Currently there are about 44 million. Here is the coverage in Reuters. The legal issues are huge. It's unlikely any institution will come off looking good. Likely the nearest thing to a hero will be simply the person who is candid about the horror of this disease so little is known about.
Those of us who live in senior housing bump into the legalities all too often. Last week I gave a woman I thought only was suffering from minor memory loss a ride to a special musical event. It would last to at least 10:30 P.M.. We agreed I would pick her up at 10:15 P.M.
Then she called me at 9:20 P.M., furious. She ranted that the event was over and where was I. I got it: She was senile. Had she wandered off and froze to death or been robbed and murdered, a lot of legal questions could have been raised.
As for me, was I negligent allowing her to be out there without supervision? Should I have "known better?"
As for others, is any family member taking advantage of her financially? Who's monitoring her financial affairs or who should be? Was the residential complex remiss in not mandating she relocate to assisted living? Should the aides who assist her have reported her deteriorating condition to her family and demanded immediate action? And once in custodial care, what should be the standard procedures to ensure safety of the client?
It's human to want to err on the side of enabling the human being as full a life as possible. But that could get society into a real legal mess. Because of fear of legal liability those with dementia could find themselves with very limited lifestyles. Meanwhile, the pain of losing their ability to sort out what's going on in the world is etched in their face. When I picked up my neighbor she looked as if she had had a major anxiety attack. Of course, I am in terror of signs that I also may be losing my marbles.