Understanding Alzheimer’s and Dementia for First Responders

Understanding Alzheimer's and Dementia for First Responders
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2024-01-18
Unit 1Presentation Materials: Understanding Alzheimer's and Dementia for First Responders
Unit 2Transcript: Understanding Alzheimer's and Dementia for First Responders
Unit 3Workbook: Understanding Alzheimer's and Dementia for First Responders
Unit 4Recording: Understanding Alzheimer's and Dementia for First Responders

With more than 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, two-thirds of which still living at home in communities, law enforcement is bound to encounter individuals with Alzheimer’s in various circumstances. This webinar provides a backgrounder on dementia including Alzheimer’s disease specific to criminal justice professionals – how to recognize it, how to respond to dementia-related calls, and resources to better familiarize with it.

Leading the discussion is Nancy Swigert from the Alzheimer’s Association. She is a volunteer community educator based in North Carolina for the last 15 years. She is a retired speech-language pathologist whose background includes collaborating with neurologists working with patients and families facing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Specifics covered in this session include:

  • Nancy’s experience working with and personal connection to Alzheimer’s experiencing it both professionally and as a family member.
  • Remember the person: The value of seeing those with dementia as unique individuals to be able to respond and interact with them better.
  • The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, its growth and fatality rates, its risk factors, and common symptoms like memory and language problems, difficulty with tasks, and personality changes.
  • The different types of dementia and their defining characteristics.
  • The difference between the structure of an Alzheimer’s brain and normal brain.
  • Hallmarks of dementia that others may observe as it relates to mental abilities, emotions and moods, responsive behaviors, spatial perception, and physical abilities.
  • How dementia can mimic symptoms of intoxication and substance use which may put individuals afflicted with dementia at risk of law enforcement encounters.
  • A rundown of likely dementia-related 911 calls including wandering, unsafe driving, false accusations, hallucinations, abuse/neglect, and shoplifting, how these may look like, and how to best manage these.
  • Common safety risks that persons with dementia are vulnerable to which puts them and others at risk.
  • The importance of communication when dealing with an individual with dementia and how to effectively facilitate two-way communication through strategies like:
    • Establishing a calm atmosphere with reduced distraction.
    • Maintaining eye contact, speaking slowly and clearly, asking questions that require simple answers, listening actively, and being patient.
    • Backing up words with actions and stressing keywords you want the individual to pay attention to.
  • Educating caregivers and family members who may experience denial due to lack of knowledge, fear, or shame so they understand the risks and are better equipped to deal with them.

Questions from the webinar participants are about…

  • Tests for Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
  • The cost of assistance from the Alzheimer’s Association helpline.
  • Correlation between Alzheimer’s risk, head/brain traumas (TBI) and, domestic violence victims with TBI.
  • De-escalation strategies for Alzheimer’s crisis.
  • Balancing and validating Alzheimer’s reality through a trust but verify approach for law enforcement.
  • Dietary factors in dementia risk and prevention.
  • Recognizing signs of Alzheimer’s during phone calls, through tone and emotion analysis, active listening, and minimal encouragers.


Click here to view and register for other upcoming Law Enforcement webinars and recordings on the JCH Platform.


Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “Practical tips for responding to those with dementia. resources.”
  • “Great course & GREAT slides.”
  • “The topic was very interesting and informative.”
  • “Good, useful information especially if you have never had any experience dealing with people with the disease.”
  • “Lots of information was passed on. I liked the format. Great presentation. Thank You!”
  • “No two persons react the same to any form of Alzheimer’s. This presentation provided me better perspective from the afflicted person’s point of view and more insight into how that person might think. Really good stuff. Thank you.”
  • “Nancy was very knowledgeable about the subject and did an excellent job in presenting the information to everyone.”
  • “Very informative webinar. Should be required training for someone new in law enforcement.”
  • “This training was so informational. I personally experienced Dementia with my grandmother and this made everything make so much more sense.”


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