By Chris Bavender
The Carmel Fire Dept. and Dementia Friends Indiana have partnered with the goal of raising awareness of the prevalence of dementia and helping educate first responders on how to recognize visual and verbal clues of dementia to better assist patients they may encounter.
“For example, did you know that when you ask a question of a person with dementia, it can take a full 20 seconds for their brain to process the question?” said Dustin Ziegler, co-founder and director of community programs for CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions. “Dementia Friends Indiana sees EMS as front-line partners who are encountering people with dementia at an increasingly frequent rate.”
CFD firefighter Mike McNeely said the department is constantly looking for ways to provide the best service to residents.
“Our chief offered our department to assist in any way possible,” McNeely said. “From there, Dustin and his group working with (CFD firefighter) Tim Griffin and I began developing our social media push as well as the educational teachings fire departments will be receiving and helping to implement a section on dementia in the national emergency medical technician curriculum.”
Part of a global campaign that began in the United Kingdom in 2012, the U.S. campaign is led by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, of which CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions is a member.
A Dementia Call to Action Day was held Sept. 14 to increase understanding about dementia and ask attendees to spread awareness of the Dementia Friends Indiana movement and to help break stigmas associated with dementia.
“A very small bit of education will go a very long way in allowing these patients and their families to go out and feel comfortable doing things they always have in the community,” McNeely said. “We hope to have our local restaurants, stores and other places in Carmel become dementia-friendly. It doesn’t take long but is a large investment in the community.”
Ziegler said because dementia is now an epidemic, no organization can address the issue alone. He recommends all sectors of the community, from health care to nonprofits to local government and faith communities, work together to build a more dementia-aware environment.
To learn more or to become a dementia friend, visit dementiafriendsindiana.org.