The Waterford Police Department wants to make sure they’re protecting some of the most vulnerable in their community – those with dementia.
The department has started a new training program for officers to help them strengthen their relationship with families who are touched by dementia or other cognitive challenges, to better respond when there is an emergency.
“Unfortunately one of the reasons I’m interested in this is I have a very close relative that has dementia. So dealing with that, suffering with that with them,” said Waterford Police Chief Brett Mahoney.
When Mahoney heard about another department’s program that helped better serve those in the community affected by dementia, starting a program of his own was an easy decision.
“Basically you have to learn how they conducted themselves. Were they in the military, do they like being spoken to sternly, given orders? Are they meek and mild, do you have to approach with kid gloves? Nicknames? What did they do for a living? Who were their friends? Where did they go?” Mahoney explained.
Police get that information through interviews with family and a questionnaire. Officers also collect an item with the person’s scent on it, to help in the event of an K9 search. They also have a drone scan the neighborhood where the person lives.
All of this data goes confidentially into their system to better assist officers if a person with Alzheimer’s or any other cognitive issue wanders off.
Six out of 10 people with dementia will wander, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, Connecticut Chapter.
Mahoney says 75 percent of his agency has received training from the association.
“With my mom, she would tend to get a little bit belligerent, and if you came at her with the wrong approach, like, 'hey stop!' that sort of thing, that would be disastrous,” Lisa Cappuccio, Waterford’s Senior Services director.
Cappuccio’s mother had dementia. Lisa was her caretaker. Now she is working with police to encourage everyone in a similar situation to sign up for the program.
“You don’t want to find out how important it is after there’s a crisis or an emergency,” she said.
Mahoney says the program officially launched three weeks ago, and so far three families have signed up. If you live in Waterford and want to be a part of the program, contact police.