More than 440 first responders in the Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services will go through interactive training on living with dementia as part of the county’s efforts to become certified as a dementia-friendly community.
County Executive Jan Gardner announced that the county initiated the first steps in becoming a dementia-friendly community at a televised press conference Tuesday morning.
Dementia Live, a training session run through the Frederick County Division of Senior Services, gives participants a taste of what it might be like to live with dementia. Each person who goes through training gets a pair of glasses that almost eliminate peripheral vision, headphones that blast loud background noise and thick gloves to take away the sense of touch.
Mary Collins and Mindy Lohman-Hinz, who run the Dementia Live training sessions, then give tasks to each person to complete. The headphones play loud noises, such as a train, while Collins or Lohman-Hinz distribute the tasks, making it difficult to hear what they are saying.
The Senior Services Division started the Dementia Live program in Frederick County in late 2018. The division offers it at the senior centers around the county. After the announcement, Lohman-Hinz and Collins ran the program for members of the county government, including Vivian Laxton, the county executive’s communications director. Gardner said she has not gone through the training, although she planned to do it.
Lenne Stolberg, battalion chief of training, went through the training session, he said. The training frustrates people as they try to remember the list of tasks or complete them. But it is that frustration and difficulty that the training emphasizes, allowing the participants to better understand what a person with dementia experiences.
“It was a very beneficial training,” Stolberg said.
The training allows first responders to better understand dementia, which will lead them to adapt how they respond to calls from or about someone with the brain disease.
“It’s one thing to understand how to treat what they called us for,” Stolberg said. “It’s another thing to understand how to put them at ease.”
While the training helps first responders, it would also apply to people such as those in the transit agency who might provide shuttle services for people with dementia or early-onset Alzheimer’s, Gardner said. Or businesses who have employees that act as caregivers.
If Frederick County completes all the necessary processes to be labeled a dementia-friendly community, it would be the third county in Maryland to do so, Gardner said. Becoming a dementia-friendly community includes steps such as making an area more recognizable through landmarks, she said. As communities and neighborhoods are developed, they can include landmarks that would be universally recognized so that if someone with dementia gets lost they could more easily identify where they are.
The county is trying to plan for a growing community of seniors. More and more people are being diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, Gardner said.
“As people live longer, we want to make sure they live as well as they can,” Gardner said.
Outside of the resources dedicated toward dementia, Gardner also announced a new phone number for the senior services division — 301-600-1234. The senior centers across the county added evening hours as another way to improve the lives of seniors in the county, said Kathy Schey, director of senior services.
There will also be additions to the Meals on Wheels program, including offering frozen meals. Volunteers from the U.S. Air Force Medical Logistics at Fort Detrick will be handing out meals in uniform, Schey said.
With the added services offered by the relatively new division, Schey told attendees at the press conference that the future for seniors “looks incredibly bright.”