DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in 10 individuals with dementia will wander. Experts said that creates the potential for 132,000 interactions between someone living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and an Ohio first responder.
The Alzheimer’s Association in Ohio has worked with former Montgomery County Sheriff and State Representative Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) and Representative Thomas West (R-Canton) who introduced legislation that requires enhanced dementia training for first responders. House Bill 23 is awaiting a vote in the full Ohio House of Representatives.
While the legislation is pending, the Association continues to work with police and fire departments around the state to provide education. In Cincinnati, the Alzheimer’s Association is one of several community partners brought together as part of a three-year $150,000 grant benefitting the Cincinnati Police Department to develop additional training and to use technology to better serve individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism and developmental disabilities.
“If someone is in Troy or in Tipp City and they live in Vandalia the reality is they be wandering or maybe agitated and they did not know where they live or may have forgotten,” said Trey Addison, the director of state public policy for the Alzheimer’s Association in Ohio.
He said understanding dementia means understanding behavioral symptoms like wandering and effective communication is key to helping that person.
This year the Troy Fire Department saw an increase in emergency medical service calls involving adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
“A lot of the elderly we’ve been going out on the last several months have been depressed, or agitated to the point where they get confrontational with our medics,” said Captain Matthew Simmons.
He said the increase is partly because of the pandemic.
“A lot of the elderly were locked up and locked away from seeing their loved ones and definitely looked different for them this year so we’re starting to see how that affects them from a side of their mental health,” Simmons said.
Because of this, his firefighters will be trained on how to understand the symptoms and effectively handle a person experiencing them.
“Hopefully we can de-escalate a situation from not having to use a chemical or physical restraint for medicine but sometimes we do. But if we can de-escalate that before going to other methods that’s what we aim to do,” he said.