Frederick County is well on its way to becoming a dementia-friendly community, as County Executive Jan Gardner has decided to send more than 440 first responders from the Division of Fire and Rescue Services to training on living with dementia.

This is an excellent first step in teaching all county employees, and indeed all first responders, to understand the effects and frustrations of residents suffering from dementia.

The county’s 65-and-over population is about 35,000, and the Maryland Department of Planning projects that it will more than double by 2040, to 74,720 people.

It is a sad fact that as the senior population grows, the number of residents suffering with dementia will grow with it, since dementia is largely a disease of the elderly.

The county’s training program is called Dementia Live, and it is a training session that will give participants a taste of what it might be like to live with dementia. The Senior Services Division started the program in late 2018, and offers it at the senior centers around the county.

Here is how it works, according to a recent News-Post article by reporter Heather Mongilio:

Mary Collins and Mindy Lohman-Hinz, who run the training sessions, give each participant 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.

They 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 eyeglasses shrink the world of the trainee, much as real vision loss would, and the gloves make handling ordinary items a clumsy chore.

All in all, according to those who have gone through the training, it can be a sobering experience.

Lenne Stolberg, battalion chief of training in the Division of Fire and Rescue Services, told our reporter that training frustrates people as they try to remember the tasks and complete them. It is that frustration and difficulty that the training emphasizes, allowing the participants to better understand what a person with dementia experiences, he said.

For the first responders, the goal is to allow them 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.”

A call to a first responder to come to help a resident with dementia can be one of the most combustible interactions between citizens and safety officers. The dementia patient might appear angry or belligerent, or may be unable to explain what has happened or why.

Dementia patients might easily be mistaken for someone who is aggressive or violent. And a patient who has access to a weapon could harm themselves or others, or be wounded or even killed by police.

The dementia training should be mandatory for all first responders — including city police, county sheriff’s deputies and state troopers.

It can literally save lives.

(7) comments

petersamuel

Isn't it a job requirement at places like 1600 Pennsylvania Av? DC generally seems to be very dementia-friendly country?

DickD

This article focuses on the First Responders, but the training is good for all, especially those in sales.  There are certain signs, such as being repetitive, low comprehension and combative nature.  It is hard to deal with and there are places that help these individuals.  Here in Frederick County, one of the best, if not the best, is Daybreak.  

User1

This story talks more about the symptoms of autism and not of dementia. Dementia deals more with forgetfulness, motor skills and such. And identifying someone with dementia isn’t as easy as seeing a sign around their neck. Multiple diseases and sicknesses, including drugs, share common symptoms. All responders are trained for safety first apprehension second.

mr_twist27

Police already receive countless hours of metal health, autism and elderly training in the academy and on a yearly basis.

sevenstones1000

Really? Then why was my autistic son thrown to the ground by sheriff’s deputies when he asked for directions? Hmmm?

Sheriff’s deputies can’t even recognize a young adult with Downs. Apparently they are skipping those classes.

User1

Get off it already seven. Big difference between someone with dementia and autism. We’re you with your “son”? What else did he do? Was he driving and gotten pulled over and refused to obey the order of “stay in your vehicle”? Tell the whole story or none at all!

joelp77440

Yea, I have trained someone them. Most stare widely into space when you mention something that is not either taught by a PO or does not deal with the direct consequences of the law. It's why PD do not hire social workers as cops.

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