Shirley Lucas is CEO of the Alzheimer's Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, which is offering dementia awareness training to first responders in the province this week. (Ted Dillon/CBC)
Newfoundland and Labrador's Alzheimer's Society has launched special training to help first responders better understand how to help people living with dementia.
Shirley Lucas, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, said the initiative is being offered as the number of people being diagnosed with dementia increases across the province and across Canada. The training offers strategies for first responders on how to better recognize and communicate with people with the disease.
"Keeping the person very calm and, you know, reassuring them that they are there to help, to be able to support the situation, goes a long way," Lucas told CBC News on Monday.
"They're in distress, they're agitated and various things like that. So, you know, in those particular incidents, it's the first responders who kind of keep the situation under control and try to navigate reuniting a loved one with their family member."
Duane Antle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Services, says the training will be valuable for first responders.
"I've personally responded to incidents where there are people who live with Alzheimer's or dementia. And one of the concerns that we have, of course, is, you know, 'Is this normal behaviour? Is the high stress situation going to change their behaviour? How should I speak to them?'" Antle said.
"Having the knowledge, I guess, of what to expect, how a high stress situation could change what to expect, and how we can properly respond to make it more comfortable for the person that we're responding to, I think would be a great asset for us."
Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Services president Duane Antle says the training will help firefighters and other first responders. (Facebook)
The Newfoundland and Labrador government and some municipalities in the province have introduced initiatives within the past year to become more dementia-friendly.
Health Minister Tom Osborne announced a 36-point plan in March to increase awareness and improve support for people living with dementia and their caretakers, and to bolster workforce training on dementia.
"I think the need is getting more important to us all the time," Antle said.
"That is going to have a greater impact on us than it's having now.… If that helps one person, then it's certainly worth it to us."