The annual York Fair in York, Pennsylvania, was the site of controversy earlier this month after a man was seen using a barbaric technique to keep tabs on his wife with late-stage dementia. A witness at that fair told authorities that he saw Walter William Wolford Sr., 66, using an 8-foot-long nylon dog leash to lead his wife, Catherine Wolford.
The witness said Wolford “had yanked that leash when all of the slack had gone out of it, causing her head to move backwards and for her to sustain red marks around her throat area.” An officer involved asked Wolford about the yanking: “Walter told me that he originally placed the leash around her waist, but somehow it had moved up around her neck and when she walked away from him and all of the slack became taut, he “gently tugged on the leash so she would stop.'” Police were unable to find any witnesses to corroborate his claims that the tugs were not violent.
When police arrived Catherine was being attended to by fair medical personnel. “She was very disoriented, did not know where she was, her own name, and spoke in gibberish,” added police in the report. Walter was charged with one count of simple assault. It was apparent that she had no idea what was going on.
Wolford told police that his wife has late stage dementia, and that 5 years ago a doctor estimated she had 2 years to live. He also said she no longer takes her dementia medication, because “they don’t make any medication that works for that” according to him.
As per Help For Alzheimer’s Families, “The four current medications for dementia (Aricept, Exelon Razadyne, Namenda) provide modest benefit. They can temporarily improve symptoms and help a person think better and remain independent longer.”
On Twitter, people had mixed reactions, ranging from sympathetic, to furious, to those that justified Walter’s decision. Some people actually came out against the people who called the police in the first place.
“So are the people who called the cops gonna take care of the wife while he’s in jail?” asked Twitter user @SCali714.
This is heartbreaking. I think he thought it was a good idea, but it was obviously horrific to onlookers. (And not a good idea at all)— Mojo (@too2negative) September 20, 2018
Can we start arresting parents that do it to their kids? 😏— Clayton Sterling (@Claytoncyre) September 20, 2018
Until you have walked a day in the life of a caregiver of someone that has dementia, please don't judge. I'm sure he thought he was doing the right thing so she would take get lost or confused in the crowds. Sounds & looks cruel, but his intention, I'm sure.— MustangMikki (@MustangMommie) September 20, 2018
“I really don’t know what I did wrong,” Wolford told New York Post. “I was trying to keep track of my wife. She is three times faster than I am. That’s part of her dementia—she simply runs away.” He said that he also took his wife to the fair last year, but she ran away.
Alarmingly this year was not the first time Wolford had used the leash. “The first time, she didn’t like it so I didn’t do it again,” he said. “But then six months later, I tried it on her at a carnival and it worked OK. This was the third time and I was just trying to keep her from running away from me. That’s all. I don’t really like using it but it was either that or not take her. I love my wife more than anything in the world but it’s very difficult to take care of someone with severe dementia. They’re making me out to be a monster, but hurting my wife is the last thing I wanted to do.” When investigators reached out to Wolford’s son, Walter Wolford Jr., he told them he had no reason to believe that his father was abusive to his mother. After posting a $5,000 bail, Wolford Sr. was released from police custody and is due to return to court on October 18.
What do you think? Was this just a bad idea from a guy trying to do right by his wife or something far more sinister? Let us know what you think in the comments below.