(WTRF) – First responders don’t run away from an emergency. They go towards it. But, what if they don’t know what to do when they get there? 

Training for law enforcement and EMS personnel is vital because they’ll encounter a variety of emergencies. When those involve people with dementia, they may need a little extra help. 

If you haven’t encountered someone with dementia there’s things you wouldn’t know.

JT Hunter, CDP, Equipped, Empowered and Enabled

According to the CDC, more than five million Americans have a form of dementia. Since it manifests in many different ways, it can be hard to identify. 

Knowing the difference between a cognitive issue and a mental health issue is critical for first responders in an emergency situation. 

That’s why Equipped, Empowered and Enabled created Dementia Situational Awareness Training.

Equipped means just bringing this information to the public. Empowering them to have the ability to go out and know what they’re dealing with when they encounter someone with dementia.

Lori McGlumphy, Dementia Care Management Consultant, Equipped, Empowered and Enabled

McGlumphy said dementia does not always fit the picture that people have come to know of a confused elderly person. Alzheimers is the number one cause of dementia and it can occur in people who are in their 40s or 50s.

The goal of Equipped, Empowered and Enabled is to train police, firefighters and other first responders to have safe interactions and de-escalate situations when they encounter someone with dementia or Alzheimers. 

They’ve been approved by the West Virginia State Police and have done training across the state. Next, they hope to expand into surrounding states and add programs for mental illness and addiction.

Each two-hour class is two credits for training.

This training has also been added for cadets, so they’re education before they leave the academy.

Then when you’re working side by side with those people or you encounter someone like that you know to have the compassion and empathy and put yourself in their shoes to know what they’re going through.

Lori McGlumphy, Dementia Care Management Consultant, Equipped, Empowered and Enabled

For Lori and JT it’s a personal mission that’s come full circle. They’ve cared for family members with dementia and know the lack of proper emergency training means caregivers hesitate to call 911.

In the mind of us, and I was a former caregiver, is that that it’s a last resort. I feel like I’m giving up hope. I’m handing this situation off, this person that I love off to someone else who may not understand who actually may make it worse.

JT Hunter, CDP, Equipped, Empowered and Enabled

Equipped, Empowered and Enabled is also trying to give caregivers a few tools to help as well.

They have signs and refrigerator magnets to catch the attention of first responders who may enter the home of a person with dementia. Emergency personnel actually came up with the idea, wanting an easier way to differentiate between cognitive issues and mental health issues.

There are even specialized cards caregivers can hand out in public to make interactions with their loved one easier.

If I have that card I can hand to you that says ‘please be patient this person has dementia and may do something unexpected’ it eases a burden. It eases a fear and I think it breaks down a stigma when we’re talking about dementia this thing that nobody wants to talk about.

JT Hunter, CDP, Equipped, Empowered and Enabled

If you’d like to learn more about these trainings or are interested in them coming to train a first responders call Lori at 304-281-5778.

You can also follow them on social media at Equipped Empowered & Enabled.