It can happen in almost any family. A loved one commits a crime such as driving without a license or leaving the scene of a traffic accident. Depending on the laws in your state, the procedure when caught is relatively straightforward.
But what if the person has dementia? Are these still considered crimes—or consequences of the disease?
Researchers have found marked differences in behavior in persons who commit crimes yet also have dementia, specifically those with the type of dementia known as frontotemporal (FTD).
FTD comes with the loss of the control that normally “filters our thoughts and impulses before we put them out into the world,” explains Dr. Aaron Pinkhasov, chairman of behavioral health at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, NY.
A study done on almost 2,400 patients at the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco, that included 545 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and 171 with FTD, showed that 37 percent with FTD had committed a crime as opposed to only 8 percent who had Alzheimer’s. More, the types of crimes committed expanded to theft and inappropriate advances in those with FTD.
What can families do? Learn to recognize the signs.
These include abrupt changes in personality or conduct. While dementia may not be the source of these changes, Dr. Georges Naasan, a researcher on the study, advises families that notice them to consult their relative’s physician for a medical evaluation.
It’s also possible to prevent such crimes from happening by taking away the car keys and accompanying the person whenever they leave home.
Find out more about the study
, and check out this post on caring for people with frontotemporal dementia