On Wednesday, January 16, the Town of Southbury, in partnership with The Watermark at East Hill retirement community, hosted a class for first responders to help them better prepare for emergency calls involving people suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of memory loss. The class was held at the Southbury Volunteer Fire Department and was attended by more than 65 police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel.

The class was designed and presented by memory care professionals from The Watermark to help first responders better relate to people living with memory loss. In addition to background information on the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and memory loss, first responders were provided tips on how to identify signs that a person may be suffering from dementia.

Some of the signs first responders should look for in a person when arriving at a call include:

  • They are not able to relay basic information such as their name, age, birthday
  • They appear disheveled, are wearing excessively layered clothing, or have overall poor personal hygiene
  • They are confused about their surroundings, or their living conditions appear excessively messy
  • If dealing with a driving situation, the person is confused about where they came from/destination, or they exhibit signs of erratic driving

The class also provided first responders with tools to help better communicate with people suffering from memory loss, including ways to ascertain vital information without upsetting or startling them. These steps include:

  • Keep the person alert and engaged, using reassuring phrases of support such as “You are safe with me” or “Tell me about that”
  • Avoid arguments if they are confused about time/place
  • Maintain body language that allows them to know you are helping them, without creating panic; take deep, slow breaths and smile often to keep them comfortable
  • Determine as quickly as possible a person of relevance (ex: husband or child’s name); this can help build trust and give you a tool to help draw hesitant people out of dangerous situations

“For people over the age of 85, there is a 50 percent chance they are suffering from some form of memory loss,” said Southbury First Selectman Ed Edelson. “Through my own work with our town’s first responders, I am hearing of more and more situations where a first responder must take into consideration the mental state of the person involved. This training will not only help first responders to become more informed and prepared, but will allow them to provide better service to those they are helping.”

In September 2012, The Watermark at East Hill opened The Villa, a new, state-of-the-art memory care community designed for people suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and other forms of memory loss. Employing a “small house” concept with just 14 residents, The Villa is designed to provide innovative memory care in a positive, supportive, household-like environment.

“Within my own career, I have seen significant changes regarding training for how to treat people with memory loss,” said Michelle Bettigole, Executive Director of The Watermark at East Hill. “We are very proud of the team we have assembled at The Villa and are pleased to have the opportunity to share this information and serve as a resource for first responders from the area. This is an important step toward raising awareness about memory loss and to ensure that people are treated with respect and dignity, especially in emergency situations.”

For more information on memory loss training for first responders, please call The Watermark at East Hill at 203-262-6868.

About The Watermark at East Hill:

The Watermark at East Hill, situated on 55 acres overlooking the Pomperaug River Valley in Southbury, CT, is a distinctive community for seniors, offering exceptional independent living, assisted living, skilled rehabilitation and memory care.  In September 2012, The Watermark at East Hill opened The Villa which offers innovative memory care services in a small-house designed residence for just 14 individuals. The Watermark at East Hill is professionally managed by Watermark Retirement Communities, a company committed to creating extraordinary communities where people thrive.

For more information, please visit www.watermarkcommunities.com/EastHill or www.facebook.com/WatermarkAtEastHill.