Updated: Oct 5
The Baker Act is a Florida law that enables families and loved ones to provide emergency mental health services and temporary detention for people who have mental health disorders who "...are a danger to themselves or others."
Although Dementia is NOT a mental health disorder, healthcare professionals have used the Baker Act when residents in nursing homes become "aggressive." However, when a person is living with brain failure (dementia) they are also living with confusion, anxiety and fear. They "may not respond to verbal commands," "may resist help," "may not recognize danger" or "at risk for wandering."
The approach the caregiver uses matters! The caregiver might interpret "self-defense" as "aggression." If they are afraid of YOU, they are defending themselves! If the caregiver calls the police and signs a Baker Act, the police become involved, the person living with dementia is "escorted" to a mental health facility where they are provided housing and await an evaluation for diagnosis and treatment.
The diagnosis is "brain failure;" the treatment required is "kindness."
The Baker Act was NOT WRITTEN to help Caregivers provide care for people living with dementia. Can you imagine a dementia expert like Teepa Snow ever "Baker Acting" someone living Alzheimer's disease, Lewy Body dementia, Vascular dementia, Frontal temporal dementia?
But it is happening every day in Bay County and all across the country because caregivers become frustrated. They do not know what else to do. That doesn't make it right.
Some of the people Baker Acted are wearing Lifesaver bracelets. Having people living with dementia wrongfully Baker Acted because the caregivers do not know what else to do is "abuse" and "cruel and unusual punishment." Debbie Selsavage wrote the book, "Citrus County Better Baker Act" after her husband was wrongfully Baker Acted against her will in 2008.
There are strategies to use and strategies to avoid at every level of dementia created by Teepa Snow, dementia expert and educator, 20 years ago.
"Validate their concerns," "Go with their flow," "
Be patient - wait - provide extra time," "Use a positive physical approach," "build trust," "provide choices: Option 1 or Option 2," "use more gestures and pointing / less words," "be calm and assuring," "check for understanding."
Whether you are a professional in the Health Care Industry, a friend, a First Responder, or a family member of someone living with dementia, Teepa Snow is world renowned for her useful information that service providers can begin utilizing immediately. Teepa’s GEMS® States classification system (based on the Allen Cognitive Disability Theory) helps you to understand which state of brain change the person is experiencing, and how to respond appropriately. Senior Helpers adapted Teepa’s GEMS® States into the Senior GEMS®, which they use to train their caregivers. People who are trained to use a Positive Approach to Care® can help change resistance and refusals into participation and successful interactions.
The Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, commonly known as the "Baker Act", allows the involuntary institutionalization and examination of an individual.
What are the Criteria for a Baker Act?
An individual may be taken to a receiving facility for involuntary examination under the Baker Act if:
There is reason to believe he/she has a mental illness and due to the mental illness, the individual has refused or is unable to determine if examination is necessary; and either;
Without care or treatment, the individual is unlikely to care for themselves which can result in substantial harm to their well-being, and it is not evident that harm can be avoided through familial intervention or other services; or
It is likely, based on recent behavior, that without treatment, the individual will pose a serious threat to themselves or others.
A Better Baker Act in Florida started in Citrus County with Debbie Selsavage and "Coping with Dementia." www.coping.today