Last August I was honored to be given the opportunity to train the nursing staff of Bayfront Health Care Hospital (Brooksville) on dementia care. I was further honored to be working alongside Jerry Fisher of the Florida Gulf Coast Alzheimer's Association at this same hospital.
In preparing for this class I came up with the idea that it was important to also reach out to the Hernando County Sheriff's Department, inviting them to attend the training as well. I am so glad I did! The deputies and detectives in attendance were outstanding. I was truly impressed with their intelligent and pertinent questions and that they took copious notes. (One detective informed me that they currently have a list of 400 wanderers in their area.)
We were also delighted to have several corrections officers and an RN from the county jail come as well. They had some jaw dropping tales of challenging episodes with dementia patients in their care.
When examining the term "first responders" it is self evident that they are the first to arrive upon the scene of a crisis. If persons with dementia are involved in the emergency, it is crucial that these vulnerable souls be redirected in some way and made to feel safe. As things continue to escalate, the situation is sure to get chaotic.
This is precisely why it is so important that they learn the key aspects of dementia care, including communication techniques, disruptive behavior intervention, ways to intercept wanderers and how to recognize abuse, just to name a few.
A better understanding of Alzheimer's and other dementia-related diseases will help them build better communication with the patients' families. Some times it just takes one conversation to help the person with cognitive issues be better understood.
Another important fact we're teaching is not to take for granted that just because these officers are wearing a uniform, those afflicted with dementia will understand who they are. I have seen firsthand where a dementia patient is being admitted to a hospital and, although everyone around them is wearing scrubs and have stethoscopes hanging around their necks, they haven't a clue that they're in an infirmary setting. It is obvious why these confused victims can easily get locked up for resisting arrest.
Educating our law enforcement officers and paramedics about dementia makes perfect sense.
We are going to be approaching all of the hospitals in the Tampa Bay area this year, encouraging them to train their staff regarding dementia care. We have made the decision to always include invitations to the first responders in each area to join these classes.
If these dedicated professionals have yet to encounter a dementia patient while on the job, it's only a matter of time before they do. It's important to make sure they're prepared ahead of time.