Pelham police undergo special training to help dementia patients

PELHAM, AL (WBRC) - One in six people over the age of 80 have dementia. So, the chances of a police officer encountering someone with the disorder is very high. That's why Pelham Police are doing special training to make sure their officers know what to do.

Interacting with someone with memory loss can be difficult, especially if they have never met you before. Officers hope that this training helps them better understand what's going on with the patient's mind.

The person who knows how to best handle an Alzheimer's patient is their caregiver and sometimes they are the only people they recognize.

That was the case with Sue Abercrombie's sister Jean. Sue and her husband Jim were her caregivers when one day Jean went missing.

"They found her in Butler, Alabama on the wrong side of the street and she was just disoriented of course. The police called us and we went to pick her up," Jim explains.

He says knowing that police are taking time to do special training makes them feel really at ease.

Captain Pat Cheatwood with Pelham Police Department says he learned a lot more than he thought he would about Alzheimer's. "I went in there thinking and knew a little bit about dementia and a little bit about Alzheimer's and came out feeling a whole lot more confident about what I didn't know," he explains.

Alzheimer's can change a person's personality and cause them to be aggressive at times. "They told us several do's and don'ts, different ways to approach them, different ways to answer questions not to get them combative or argumentative," Captain Cheatwood says.

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