The Silver Crisis
The Silver Crisis – if you’re thinking this crisis has to do with metal and money – wrong. Over the next 15 years, a real human crisis is headed our way – 78 million, or what is left of them, baby boomers, and a good number of older Generation X citizens, will be almost fully retired and heading into the sunset. On its own that may not seem like a huge issue, but consider that many of the caregivers for these people will either be senior citizens themselves or, and this is the worst case scenario, they have no children or relatives to care for them. In that case, who or what public agency will be there to help them? You guessed it, police. Many of the younger Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are sandwiched between caring for their own parents and their children.
In most states, there is some kind of public agency, in Texas it is the Adult Protective Services which is under the Department of Health and Human Services or some other state agency, that provides a safety net for these citizens. This service has a very limited role in “protecting” a citizen who has reached his or her 65th birthday and is a danger to themselves or others. Wanna bet that when the silver crisis hits the fan, it will be woefully understaffed and under motivated to deal with the influx of “clients?” For argument’s sake, let’s just say they are and those golden oldies will have a safety net to look after their best interests in APS, or similar agency, what about those older Americans who clearly are competent, in the eyes of the law, or who may be borderline, and their family or other caregiver has no money to have them declared incompetent? What then? Is the state going to sue the “client” to have them declared incompetent so that it can take care of them? Doubtful.
Police departments all over the USA, the world in fact, will have demands placed on them that will not only stretch their resources but challenge them to find “ways” to be able to help them or their caregivers. Imagine, if you will, the following scenario: A citizen calls the police department asking for help to keep their aging parent from driving. Seems the parent still drives, but clearly shouldn’t by virtue of the dents and dings the car. One problem, the parent still lives on his or her own, but clearly are showing signs of dementia or other physical limitations, but not yet incompetent, at least no labeled as such by a competent court. What do you do? Sue your own parent for conservatorship – maybe – assuming the citizen has the financial resources to do that. Have them assessed by a court to have their driving privileges revoked. Maybe, if an officer can articulate with sufficient facts why his or her driver’s license should be revoked. Bottom line, if you try and have APS intercede, good luck with getting a live human to assist you. Chances are, if your department has not already established a connection with an APS operative, you will not be getting much help from them.
Or, consider that the senior citizen lives in an assisted living community; however, they have become abusive or aggressive and he or she is asked to leave the community – polite for thrown out? What happens to them then? Are departments going to send officers to evict him or her…throw him or her into the streets?
The silver train is on the tracks.
Chief G. M. Cox, Ph.D.
Murphy PD, Texas