First Responders Face Challenges With Dementia Patients

As more and more of the population across the Tri-State ages, it can create challenges when they find themselves in the greatest need.

That’s especially true when older people begin showing signs of dementia.

But first responders are preparing for the needs of more and more seniors, training to give them the care they need during an emergency.

Madisonville’s firefighters do so much more than make runs to burning buildings. They say they’re seeing more and more medical runs, and that they’re preparing for anything.

“With Mom, I believe she had a couple of strokes. Each time she would have a stroke, her mind would get a little worse.”

Doris Wathen in Henderson has seen for herself some of the challenges that seniors face when they live alone and find themselves in an emergency.

“She actually fell and laid there for a good part of the day before we realized she’d fallen,” Wathen recalled.

But complicating an already difficult situation is when first responders find someone in need not in the right state of mind.

“The past couple years we’ve been seeing more of an increase on the medical side. You never know, and that’s why I think the training is important,” said Lt. Matthew Reeves with Madisonville Fire Department.

Madisonville firefighters are training not just for search and rescue or fighting fires, but in helping care for the vulnerable.

“When we come in, we mostly have bunker pants on. That could be frightening to them,” Lt. Reeves explained.

Departments across the Tri-State are having to make adjustments.

Central Indiana first responders are partnering with the state Department of Homeland Security and in-home caretakers to now mandate dementia education like that given to Madisonville’s firefighters.

“Just get on their eye level if they’re sitting in a recliner. Stuff like that. Little simple things that people tend to overlook makes a big difference in terms of how you interact with that patient,” Lt. Reeves said of some of their training.

Staying calm, and helping to keep a bad situation from worsening for those who may not understand what’s going on is key.

“It’s also the safety aspect of it. They might not even be in the right mind to walk, they might be very stubborn,” Reeves added.

But taking care of the most vulnerable requires not just the efforts of responders during an emergency, but help from loved ones to prepare before something happens.

Even in the simplest ways.

“It’s important for someone especially living alone to have their address written down, where if they do have a memory problem, they can easily access their information if they have to relay that to someone,” Wathen said.

Firefighters add, they’re always on the lookout for more ways to serve all members of the community in need.



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