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Ohio Legislature, Please Pass Bill to Provide Dementia Training to First Responders

Ohio Legislature, Please Pass Bill to Provide Dementia Training to First Responders

When my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, my family and I cared for him during this life-altering and debilitating journey. Dementia shifts in how it presents itself. Dementia patients can appear cognitively stable. There are times when they can hold a conversation and walk away with no memory of who they spoke with or what was said, and there are other times when they do not have the ability to follow directions because of their illness.  

My father was in the latter situation when an incident arose that required police intervention. Luckily, the officer had the training and education to resolve the issue positively. Others are not so lucky.

One of my biggest fears is that a first responder who encounters a patient with dementia in the community does not have the training to first even recognize that the person has dementia. The interaction can be devastating, depending on how the person responds or how the first responders react. House Bill 23 can help. The bill, which has bipartisan support, would train and educate peace officers and specified emergency medical service personnel to recognize the signs of Alzheimer’s and related dementia and appropriately interact with persons living with dementia.

As our Ohio legislators finish this General Assembly, I’m asking the Ohio General Assembly to please pass House Bill 23 and make this necessary training a requirement

There are an estimated 220,000 individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in Ohio, with a projection to see nearly a 20% increase in those living with Alzheimer’s’ and other dementias by 2030. These estimates do not reflect those who are undiagnosed or those with early on-set under the age of 65.

If anyone is wavering on not passing HB23 into law, imagine yourself or your loved one unable to function, and everyone notices the change aside from the person suffering. Imagine having a disorienting moment where first responders encounter you, and they have no idea your medical history, resulting in a negative outcome.

For all Ohioans who may have an encounter with dementia, passing HB 23 brings peace of mind for the safety and well-being of their loved ones.  First responders will have the tools to identify the signs of a person with dementia and respond with care, resulting in positive outcomes for everyone. 

Veronica McCreary-Hall is a volunteer on the advocacy team with AARP Ohio since 2019.  She is also a retired registered nurse and acted as caregiver to her father, who was diagnosed with dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease.

Update: HB 23 was signed by Gov. Mike DeWine on Jan. 2, 2023. Read AARP Ohio's statement.

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