Frederick County is on its way to becoming a dementia friendly community, as Jan Gardner, County Executive, has decided that over 440 first responders from the Fire and Rescue Services Division will train dementia living.
This is the first excellent step in the teaching of all county employees, and indeed all first responders, to understand the effects and frustrations of residents with dementia.
The population of 65 and over in the county is approximately 35,000, and Maryland Planning Department projects that will have more than doubled by 2040, to 74,720 people.
It is regrettable that as the older population grows, the number of residents with dementia will increase, mainly due to the disease of older people.
The county's training program is called Dementia Live, and is a training session that will give participants a taste of how to live with dementia. The Senior Services Division commenced the program at the end of 2018 and provides it in the senior centers throughout the county.
Here's how it works, according to recent News-Post article by the reporter Heather Mongilio:
Mary Collins and Mindy Lohman-Hinz, who run the training sessions, give each participant a pair of glasses that eliminate peripheral vision, headphones that break high background noise, and thick gloves to remove the contact.
They then assign tasks to each person to complete. The headphones play loud noise, such as a train, and Collins or Lohman-Hinz distribute the tasks, making it difficult to hear what they are saying. The eyeglass reduces the life of the trainee, as would a real loss of vision, and the gloves stir up the normal items.
Overall, according to those who have gone through training, it can be a sober experience.
Lenne Stolberg, chief training officer in the Fire and Rescue Services Division, told the reporter that the training hinders people in trying to remember and complete the tasks. It is the frustration and difficulty that the training emphasizes, allowing participants to get a better understanding of what a person has with dementia, he said.
For the first responders, the goal is to allow them to get a better understanding of dementia, which will enable them to adapt to how they respond to calls from someone or someone with brain disease.
“It's one thing to understand how to deal with what they called us,” said Stolberg. “Another thing that is understood is how to put them at ease.” T
A call for the first respondent can come to help a dementia resident become one of the most combustible interactions between citizens and safety officers. The dementia patient may be angry or hostile, or may not be able to explain what happened or why.
It may be wrong with dementia patients as someone who is aggressive or violent. And a patient with access to an army could harm himself or others, or be wounded or even by police.
Dementia training should be mandatory for all first responders – including city police, county sheriff delegates and state transporters.
It can save lives.
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