CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Alzheimer’s Association is offering dementia training for the state’s first responders to help in their interactions with the elderly.
The free series of educational programs will deal with effective communication strategies and dementia behaviors. Sharon M. Covert, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter, said dementia training for West Virginia’s first responders is essential to developing a dementia friendly workforce.
“Having effective communication strategies and techniques is a valuable skill to have when interacting with members of the community, even more so when you are dealing with the elder population who may be struggling with cognitive impairment issues, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s,” Covert said.
She added, “Communication is more than just the use of words; it’s also nonverbal communication, like body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Our Effective Communication Strategies program provides practical information to help first responders decode verbal and nonverbals cues while out on a service call.”
In West Virginia, 39,000 individuals 65 years old and older live with Alzheimer’s disease, which is a form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, national statistics show that six in 10 individuals with dementia will wander. That fact alone is a potential for 23,400 interactions between someone living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and a West Virginia first responder.
Wandering is just one symptom of Alzheimer’s. When coupled with agitation and other behavioral symptoms, it only increases the chances of an unintended and potentially dangerous interaction between West Virginia’s most vulnerable and a first responder.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive, fatal brain disease that kills nerve cells and tissues in the brain, affecting an individual’s ability to remember, think, plan, speak, walk. In the United States, more than 6 million people have the disease.
Covert said the West Virginia State Police has expressed interest in the training now.
In 2019, the Alzheimer’s Association did dementia training for St. Albans. First responders and city workers were trained, said Teresa Morris, Program Director of the West Virginia Alzheimer’s Association.
“We believe this training is crucial for first responders, as they are typically the first on the scene,” Morris said. “By knowing a few good tips and strategies, first responders can better manage difficult situations related to dementia behaviors. We are happy to offer this free training to all first responders in WV.”
About Alzheimer’s Association®
The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s®. Visit www.alz.org or call our 24/7 Helpline at (800) 272-3900.