In order to ensure Ohioans with dementia receive proper treatment lawmakers are working to pass a bill requiring police officers and first responders to be educated in effective communication tactics.
House Bill (HB) 23 sponsored by State Representatives Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) and Thomas West (D-Canton) aims to develop education and require specialized training for first responders addressing difficult situations for individuals with dementia.
“This bill helps those with dementia to get the proper treatment and resources they need and ensures they are able to get home safely,” Plummer said.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association of Ohio, about 220,000 Ohioans live with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, a figure that’s expected to grow 20 percent by 2030 as the population ages. 421,000 family caregivers bear the burden of the disease in Ohio, with 614 million hours of unpaid care.
In addition, 50 percent of individuals with dementia live at home without family or a caregiver, and 60 percent are prone to wandering.
HB 23 would require two hours of instruction for police officers and first responder trainees and one hour of instruction for continuing professional training covering effective communication techniques, ways to identify symptoms of the disease, protocols for contacting caregivers, and local resources available for individuals with dementia.
Under the bill, the Ohio Attorney General’s office would consult with the Ohio Department of Aging to develop a training program that covers effective communication techniques, ways to identify disease symptoms, protocols for contacting caregivers, and local resources available for individuals with dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Association states, that first responders can find themselves in unique circumstances involving people suffering from dementia. First responders may interact with people with dementia while searching for a lost individual, stopping drivers who exhibit unsafe driving, rescuing people with dementia from abuse, and intervening in crises or disasters. Individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias can also be the victims of elder abuse. But they may be unaware they are victims and may not know how to, or be able to, report it.
“We know that many Ohioans with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are prone to wandering. HB 23 would provide the necessary training to handle these situations and ensure the safety of our loved ones, no matter where they are,” West said.
According to the Alzheimers Association, the symptoms of dementia aren’t always consistent or even easily recognizable. Wandering is only one of several behavioral symptoms which could contribute to a potentially dangerous interaction if a first responder is unaware.
“Wandering is just one symptom of Alzheimer’s. When coupled with agitation, it only increases the chances of an unintended and potentially dangerous interaction between Ohio’s most vulnerable and a first responder,” Alzheimer’s Association Director of Public Policy Trey Addison said.
The Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging states that people with Alzheimer’s may present as uncooperative, disruptive, and combative when they have difficulty communicating and understanding what is happening.
“First responders may not know how to work with people in these situations, leading to more confusion. Education of the disease and training in de-escalation tactics can often effectively address the situation and ensure the safety of individuals with dementia as well as the safety of the first responders,” Larke Recchie CEO of Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging said.
Dementia is one of the costliest chronic diseases in the nation. The total societal cost for dementia care was estimated at $290 billion in 2018 and is projected to increase to $1.1 trillion by 2050 according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
Plummer also notes the legislation contains no additional costs to local governments.
The legislation has not obtained opposition to date. The bill has passed in the house and is currently under review in the Veterans and Public Safety Committee.
– – –
Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Phil Plummer” by Phil Plummer for State Representative. Photo “Thomas West” by State Representative Thomas E. West. Background Photo “Police” by Darya Sannikova.