COLUMBUS — New proposed legislation to train peace officers and medical service personnel on how to identify and communicate with those displaying symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia will prepare safety forces on how to help those who wander.
On Dec. 9, State Reps, Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, and Thomas West, D-Canton, introduced a bill that would establish training requirements for first responders on how to identify and interact with individuals with dementia. As Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia, progresses, an individual will experience many symptoms including depression, anger, agitation, hallucinations and wandering.
The bill would require at least two hours of instruction for cadets with satisfactory completion of basic training at an approved peace officer training school. Plummer said, “those who are suffering with dementia deserve to have trained professionals looking out for them and working with them at all times.”
The training would focus on seven components:
1. Identifying individuals with dementia, including psychiatric and behavioral symptoms of dementia
2. Respectful and effective communication techniques for communicating with individuals with dementia and their caregivers
3. Techniques for addressing the behavioral symptoms of dementia, including alternatives to physical restraint
4. Identifying and reporting incidents of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of individuals with dementia to the office of attorney general
5. Protocols for contacting caregivers when an individual with dementia is found wandering or during an emergency or crisis situation
6. Local resources available for individuals with dementia
7. Local and national organizations that assist peace officers with locating missing and wandering individuals with dementia and returning them to their caregivers
Trey Addison, Ohio Public Policy director for the Alzheimer’s Association, said, “With six out of 10 people with dementia wandering and more than 220,000 individuals currently living with the disease in Ohio, our hardworking first responders are faced with a potential of 132,000 interactions with someone with dementia. Ohio’s next generation of first responders must be equipped with the skills in how to help someone with dementia.”
“This legislation is a great next step on the heels of Governor Mike DeWine signing Senate Bill 24, which established an Alzheimer’s State Task Force,” Addison added. “We are grateful Reps. Plummer and West are taking the lead on getting this important process underway.”
Ohio is on the brink of a demographic shift where seniors will outnumber those 18 and younger. The 220,000 people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia are expected to grow by more than 20 percent in the next five years.
West said, “Making sure that our peace officers and first responders are equipped to identify and effectively interact with Ohioans with dementia is crucial. Our bill would ensure that they receive the necessary training to handle these situations and ensure the safety of our loved ones with this disease.”