Bill aims to prepare officers for people with Alzheimer’s

Photo courtesy: Drug target

In the realm of law enforcement, where swift action and critical decision-making are the norm, a new frontier is emerging, one that demands a detailed understanding of how Alzheimer’s and similar types of dementia affect behavior.

Senate Bill 208 aims to equip law enforcement officers with specialized training to navigate the unique challenges of dealing with individuals who are affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Alzheimer’s gets worse over time and affects memory and essential mental functions. Law enforcement officers may encounter distinctive challenges when dealing with individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

SB 208 intends to establish an online program for law enforcement to address the need for specialized training. This program is specifically crafted to navigate the challenges posed by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Jennifer Braisted, the director of government affairs for the Alzheimer’s Association for Florida, spoke about the unique characteristics and challenges in dealing with individuals affected by Alzheimer’s.

“Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease; it affects all aspects of a person. Many times, we think Alzheimer’s is just a memory disorder, and changes in memory are kind of the first signs. It can affect behaviors and communication. When this happens, the individual becomes less responsive as they progress through the disease.” Braisted said.

The largest non-profit funder of Alzheimer’s research, the Alzheimer’s Association, recently held an event at Cascades Park, “Walk to End Alzheimer’s.” Alexander Anderson, vice president of the Alzheimer Association, spoke on a previously passed bill that aids SB 208.

“A special person’s registry was passed last year, allowing individuals to voluntarily register information about someone with Alzheimer’s or a similar condition. And this year we thought, well, that’s great, you know, notifying law enforcement, but what about the training?” Anderson said.

State Senator Danny Burgess, R–Zephyrhills, is the SB 208 sponsor. He told The Famuan that SB 208 would create a voluntary class for law enforcement professionals to teach them how to better interact with those suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“The class will teach them how to recognize symptoms of Alzheimer’s effectively communicating with patients, discuss alternatives to physically restraining them, and recognize signs of abuse or neglect. It will be available for every police department in the state,” Burgess said. “I think this idea is a great way to continue our work to make Florida a more welcoming state. Law enforcement may face unique challenges when dealing with Alzheimer’s patients. Providing an additional training option tailored to handle such situations can be beneficial.”

This program can be used to satisfy the 40-hour professional interactive prerequisite needed to be an officer. If passed during the upcoming session, the legislation would take effect July 1, 2024.