Prisons 'ill-equipped to deal with rising dementia population'

Prisons need better staff training and support from external agencies to effectively meet needs of growing number of inmates with dementia, says Mental Health Foundation study. Prisons are ill-equipped to tackle a rising population of inmates with dementia and must invest in training, routine screening of older prisoners and support from external agencies to do so. That was the conclusions of an international study into the challenges of supporting prisoners with dementia that highlighted good practice in doing so, published today by the Mental Health Foundation. The number of sentenced prisoners aged over 50 in England and Wales has risen by 74% to almost 10,000 in the past decade, according to government figures, a trend driven by tougher sentencing policies. Also, prisoners tended to be physiologically "older" than their chronological age due to the psychological and physical impact of incarceration and prior issues such as substance misuse, meaning those suffering from dementia were affected earlier than the wider population. However, dementia remained "a hidden problem" because most prisons did not screen for cognitive impairment on entry, prison officers mostly lacked the skills to identify possible dementia, sufferers did not tend to report symptoms and mental health services were often focused on other inmates whose behaviour was more challenging.