Waterford police proactive in dealing with difficult issue

April 22, 2019

Alzheimer’s Disease is heartbreaking. Patients often remain physically able, while their minds recede to a gray and foggy place. They might have angry outbursts, suffer from paranoia, be unable to distinguish fact from fantasy, cease to recognize family members or close friends and often mentally slip back to an earlier era of their lives.

The disease causes severe stress on caregivers, many of whom are unprepared and untrained to deal with the disease’s impact on their loved ones.

Appropriate support can be a godsend. The Waterford Police Department deserves praise for stepping up in this regard.

The department recently became one of the first in the state to launch a program to provide officers with training about Alzheimer’s and other dementias, while also seeking to build stronger relationships with families of Alzheimer’s patients in an effort to more effectively react to emergencies involving their loved ones.

Chief Brett Mahoney said the program aims to provide officers with more information to help them better understand specifics about individuals with cognitive disorders. What is the best way to communicate with the person? What are their hobbies and interests? How did they make their living? Do they enjoy the beach, walking in the woods or going to a particular park?

For example, a person who had a military background might respond best to direct orders, while someone fearful of police might require a gentler, non-threatening demeanor. A patient might not recall the name of their daughter or son but will remember a nickname they had as a child, a friend’s name from their teen years or a long-ago home address.

While the Alzheimer’s Association is providing Waterford officers with general training about the disease, families with loved ones suffering from cognitive difficulties provide police with the more specific information. Besides some personal insights, families give the police recent photographs of their loved one and an item of scent that a tracking dog might use in the event a person gets lost.

All this information can be critical in helping calm a tense situation at home or more quickly locating a patient who may have wandered off.

Waterford families and caregivers of those suffering with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive impairments are fortunate to have this program available. We urge more to take advantage of this service as it will provide them with some peace of mind during a period that is undeniably stressful and full of worry.

With an aging population throughout the region, this is a service that should be copied. We urge more police departments in the region to consider embarking on such a program, which is truly a demonstration of community policing.