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The prisoner population is ageing, and consideration is needed for how to best support those with age-related health conditions in the system. Existing work practices and organizational structures often fail to meet the needs of prisoners with dementia, and prison staff experience high levels of burden because of the increased needs of these prisoners. Little is known about the best method of responding to the needs of this growing subpopulation of prisoners.
A scoping review was conducted to answer the question: what are the perceived best care options for prisoners with dementia? To be included, publications had to be publicly available, reported on research findings, or viewed opinions and commentaries on care practices relevant to older prisoners with dementia. Searches were conducted in 11 databases to identify relevant publications. Data from the included publications were extracted and summarized into themes.
Eight themes were identified that could support better care practices for prisoners with dementia: (1) early and ongoing screening for older prisoners; (2) specialized services; (3) specialized units; (4) programs or activities; (5) adaptations to current contexts; (6) early release or parole for older prisoners with dementia deemed at low risk of reoffending; and (7) training younger prisoners (8) as well as staff to assist older prisoners with dementia. Besides practical strategies improving care practice, costs, prison-specific resources, and staff skills were highlighted as care barriers across all themes. A lack of empirical evidence supported these findings.
One of the implications of the international ageing prison population is the higher number of people living with dementia being incarcerated. Suggestions for best care approaches for prisoners with dementia now need to move from opinion to empirical approaches to guide practice.
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