In this month’s correctional healthcare news round-up, I talk with regular panelists, Catherine Knox and Sue Smith about aging and disability issues in correctional healthcare. Catherine is an independent consultant with nursing and leadership experience in the Oregon Department of Corrections, the Washington Department of Corrections, and California Prison Health Care Services. Sue Smith also has a long history in correctional nursing. She has worked in various capacities for the Ohio Dept of Rehabilitation and Correction including staff nurse, nurse administrator and nurse educator.
Human Rights Watch reported that the number of aging prisoners is soaring and that correctional officials are ill-prepared to run geriatric facilities. The article includes some concerning statistics including the news that “The number of sentenced prisoners age 55 or older grew at six times the rate of the overall prison population between 1995 and 2010.”
Growing numbers of aging inmates means more immobility, hearing and visions impairments and more disabling or terminal illness. It also means more cognitive impairment. Our next news item comes from the New York Times and discusses the California Men’s Colony dementia program. This program is one of a growing number of prison programs developed to deal with diminishing cognitive capacities in the aging inmate population.
Another response to elderly inmates was documented in the news recently with a focus story on the hospice program at Vacaville in the California system. Several responses to aging and dealing with the sick and chronically ill inmates also showed up in recent news. Hospice programs have been growing in the correctional setting. According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 75 prisons and jails in 41 states have a form of hospice program available to dying inmates. When the first programs started in prisons there were no standards for delivery of hospice services in correctional settings. Many programs now involve fellow inmates in peer-support roles that benefit both the dying inmate and the care provider. Correctional nurses have an opportunity to profoundly affect the outcome of terminal illness and assist inmates to have a ‘good death’ even while incarcerated.
Some states are looking into alternatives that place older and debilitated inmates in settings outside the wall. Connecticut is seeking a nursing home option for some of their older prisoners according to an article from the Connecticut Mirror. It says the state is seeking to contract with a nursing home for about 95 beds for parolees and patients from state institutions. Is this a good solution? Some legislators and citizens of the state have concerns.
Texas has a different response to the older and sicker inmate. An article in the Star-Telegram says the state is seeking early release for more and more sick inmates. Says” The Tx Parole board approved 85 medical releases in fiscal 2011- the most in five years and more than double the 40 approved in 2009”. Is this a good solution to the aging issue?
Listen to the full podcast from the Correctional Nursing Today website or by clicking on the link on the right sidebar of this blog.
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