M4A facilitates Dementia Friendly training for law enforcement

Shelby County law enforcement will be better prepared to respond to residents with dementia thanks to help from the Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging.

M4A representatives recognized Sheriff John Samaniego at the Monday, Sept. 25, meeting of the Shelby County Commission for his department’s participation in “Dementia Friendly America” training.

The training was possible because of a $10,000 grant from the Central Alabama Aging Consortium through the Alabama Department of Senior Services.

Dementia Friendly Community Grant recipients had latitude in utilizing the funds. Some worked with schools, others with private businesses, M4A Executive Director Carolyn Fortner said.

“M4A wanted to work with law enforcement,” Fortner said. “It was really a wonderful project.”

A Dementia Friendly Community is defined as one that creates a culture that embraces, supports and properly responds to residents with dementia and their caregivers.

The project is intended to develop a toolkit for law enforcement and first responders, conduct training and provide long-term support.

The 24-page toolkit focuses on three areas: dementia knowledgeable, dementia sensitive and dementia responsive.

The Dementia Friendly training was part of a larger effort by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office titled Crisis Intervention Training, a 40-hour course that also included training on responding to those with autism and more.

One hundred forty law enforcement officers completed the training, which covered all SCSO employees and also those from local police departments.

Robyn James, development and marketing director for M4A, wrote the grant for the project and helped facilitate it.

“The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office was really one of the leaders who jumped on it and said, ‘We want to train our officers,’” James said.

M4A representatives want to make the training and toolkit available to first responders across the state and possibly the nation, James said.

“We want to get in front of the masses,” she said. “We’re trying to get on the agenda for the Alabama Chiefs of Police. We intend to train the trainers by training staff members at other Agencies on Aging.”

M4A is seeking an additional grant to sustain the project, and will also train other local police and fire and rescue agencies, James said.

For more information about Dementia Friendly America, visit DFAmerica.org.