Wheeling firefighters all trained up to respond to calls involving dementia patients

Ohio County

Wheeling, WV (WTRF)-They’re there when you need them, but Wheeling firefighters are fully prepared to take calls that go beyond the usual search and rescue.

They’ve all gone through “Specialized Dementia” Training: Wheeling firefighters being one of the first in the tri-state area to go through this kind of training.

It’s the everyday life of a firefighter: respond and save lives. But you may not realize the kind of calls they get that go outside of what you may consider a firefighter’s job.

“We do experience calls where we are dealing with patients early onset dementia. Sometimes family members or caregivers don’t really know what’s going on. “

Chief Jim Blazier, Wheeling Fire Department

But that isn’t always a dead-giveaway to firefighters right away.

“We go on so many calls. You have to be able to recognize this type of call because this does portray as maybe a drug problem or a mental illness, but it is dementia-related.”

Lieutenant bob Heldreth, Wheeling fire department

The instructors behind the training say those living with dementia may also have slurred speech, trouble balancing and may come across confused… behavior that could be mistaken with alcohol or drug-related behavior.

That’s where this training comes in: from learning the signs that tell them they may be dealing with someone living with dementia to knowing how to respond and engage with them.

“It’s another tool in our arsenal to help identify early signs.”

Chief Jim Blazier, Wheeling Fire Department

“We’ve learned new tips on how to approach patients on non-verbal communication and take things slow and get into their level and thinking to get them the care they need without getting them upset or aggravated.”

Lieutenant bob Heldreth, Wheeling fire department

And in turn, firefighters say by identifying it, it’s only going to help them help that patient.

“Get the patients the care they need. That’s our main goal, no matter what type of patient we’re dealing with. We want them to get the proper care and get back to normal life as soon as possible.”

Chief Jim Blazier, Wheeling Fire Department

Not just Wheeling firefighters, but Paramedics and EMTs all took the training.

Any first responders who’d also like to learning from this training, call (304) 281-5778.

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