Lufkin woman's arrest raises awareness of dementia

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An East Texas woman says her mother's embarrassing arrest sheds light on the reality of living with mental illness. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It attempts to raise awareness of mental diseases and the depression and suicide that may accompany them.

Linda Gaddie is still angry over the arrest that brought her mother's health needs to focus.

"Bruises on both of her hands and her wrists, it was very ugly. Like I said, she was really treated like a hardened criminal," said Elna Hutto's daughter, Linda Gaddie.

Last November, Elna Hutto was arrested for allegedly trying to steal cosmetics, milk, and infant clothes from K-Mart.

"It's devastating to think somebody would think that she had stolen anything. She doesn't have to steal," said Gaddie.

When police learned of Hutto's dementia and clean record, charges were dropped. Gaddie says that incident underscores the need for her mom to seek help.

"We will experience thing like them going to stores and taking things. They won't remember that it's not theirs. And, they can just walk away," said MRC PineCrest Retirement Community Director of Nursing Angel Branch.

Branch says it's not uncommon for patients dealing with dementia to have memory lapses, sometimes even forgetting where they are.

Gaddie says her mother was diagnosed with dementia in January and since that diagnosis has managed to continue living on her own.

"She's doing really, really well. She's got medications that she takes," said Gaddie.

According to Branch, identifying and dealing with the disease is the most beneficial way to cope.

"Best thing is to identify it. You know, don't be ashamed that it's going on with your mother or your loved one. But, make sure that you identify, ok something is wrong. They're having memory problems," said Branch.

Gaddie finds some comfort in knowing she can provide her mother the care she needs.

Branch says one in every five elderly people experience dementia. She works with about 100 dementia patients at Pinecrest.

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