SOUTHBURY —The town, in partnership with The Watermark at East Hill retirement community, hosted a class for first responders on Wednesday, January 16, to help them better prepare for emergency calls involving people suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss.

The class at the Southbury Volunteer Fire Department was attended by more than 65 police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel.

In addition to background information on the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and memory loss, first responders were provided with 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 an inability to relay basic information such as name, age and birthday, a disheveled appearance, excessively layered clothing or overall poor personal hygiene, confusion about surroundings or living conditions that appear excessively messy and, in driving situations, signs of erratic driving or confusion about point of origin or destination.

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

These steps include keeping the person alert and engaged, using reassuring phrases of support such as “You are safe with me,” or “Tell me about that.”

Other techniques are to avoid arguments when the person is confused about time or place and maintain body language that indicates the responder is helping the person.

Class participants also learned to take deep, slow breaths and smile often to keep the person comfortable while determining a possible person of relevance as quickly as possible.

Knowing the name of a husband or child can help build trust and 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.”

More information on memory loss training for first responders is available by calling The Watermark at East Hill at 203-262-6868.

Anyone who would like to learn more about the facility may visit