Dementia leads to death, protects man from violent crime charge

Many of us who are watching our parents and other loved ones grow older know how difficult it can be to witness the aging process. An emotionally taxing aspect of the aging process is the loss of mental capacities. A loved one is unable to remember the big news from last week or keep the names of family members straight. It is a sad and frustrating loss for all involved.

But dementia, often the result of Alzheimer’s, can lead to more than forgotten names. Victims of dementia can act unpredictably and against the standard mode of behavior of someone who is well. This comes up because an elderly man in Baltimore County could be hit with a stinging accusation of fatal domestic violence. His illness, however, will protect him from the criminal justice system.

The Baltimore Sun reports that a 92-year-old man with Alzheimer’s lost his wife of 65 years after an unfortunate turn of events. He reportedly wanted to go out of the house by himself, and when his wife tried to prevent him from doing so, she was pushed, fell down and died as a result of her injuries.

Essentially, the death is a homicide. But what should the system do with a case wherein the violent party was violent as a result of a diagnosed and documented mental illness? The government is not going to charge the elderly suspect with a crime. There is no background of domestic violence in the man’s history, making this tragic death clearly appear to be a tragic mistake.

Our source doesn’t disclose any comments from the suspect or how severe his dementia is. Imagining, however, that his mind is clear enough to understand what happened, his living with that reality will probably be harder than any criminal consequence he might have faced.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Husband with dementia pushes wife, causing fatal fall,” Peter Hermann, April 6, 2012

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