Alzheimer’s Association offers training to WV first responders

West Virginia

A close-up photo of police lights by night

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The state’s first responders have been offered training from West Virginia Alzheimer’s Association to help in their interactions with the elderly.

The program will be free and will involve training on effective communication strategies and dementia behaviors. 

“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.”

Sharon M. Covert, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter

She further explains that “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, 6 in 10 individuals with dementia will wander. That alone creates 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.

Covert said the West Virginia State Police has expressed interest in the training now.

“We believe this training is crucial for first responders, as they are typically the first on the scene. 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.” 

Teresa Morris, Program Director of the West Virginia Alzheimer’s Association

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