Grayslake aims to become a 'dementia-friendly' community

Grayslake police officers and firefighters will receive training next week on how to better understand and help people with dementia.

Police Chief Phil Perlini said the one-hour sessions April 28 and 29 should give the first responders a greater understanding of dementia and find a "very approachable" way to communicate with those suffering from the disease.

"Knowing some of what to expect, how to deal with the confusion, the fear and the special needs of dementia patients is of the utmost importance in all first-responder dealings with them," Perlini said. "Hopefully, we should be able to differentiate between dementia, a medical emergency or intoxication by the end of the class."

The training is part of an effort to make Grayslake a "dementia-friendly" community, similar to what Watertown, Wisconsin, near Madison achieved in 2013.

Mike Steiner, who runs a Right at Home caregiving service in Grayslake, got the ball rolling on the training sessions a little more than a month ago after approaching village officials. Volunteers will start by training police and firefighters, then offer the program and reference materials to Grayslake businesses, he said.

Expanding the program beyond just first responders will help family or other caregivers who sometimes are afraid to bring those suffering from memory loss into restaurants or shops because of the stigma attached to the disease, Steiner said.

"If we have a community with restaurants and hair salons and other places where the staff is trained on how to work with people with dementia and have the patience ... and the staff is aware of how to deal with that in a very caring manner, it makes it better for the business, it makes it better for the community members, and it's just good all the way around," he said.

Christine Damon, a gerontologist who's executive director and founder of Wadsworth-based CareSmart Illinois, will lead the first responder training next week. Her two-year-old nonprofit organization specializes in community education related to aging,

"Anybody with dementia is hypersensitive to so many things," Damon said. "So, if there is a problem, they might be upset by something that we wouldn't think (is upsetting) or they perceive things differently. So, they can be easily agitated. And if people are agitated, they don't think clearly and they don't respond what we would consider appropriately."

Dementia-friendly communities started in the United Kingdom and are fairly new to the United States, Damon said.

In the most recently available report on the topic from 2013, the London-based Alzheimer's Society says creating a dementia-friendly town includes having consistent and reliable travel options, easily navigated environments, and respectful and responsive businesses.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.