Photo: Officer Steve Moore. Little Neck, Arkansas. Source: Arkansasmatters.com
In Little Rock, Arkansas, a police department has added a little more training when handling Alzheimer's patients. In the communities that surround this police department, there are up to 60,000 cases of Alzheimer's disease that have been reported. Because of this training, the Little Rock Police Department may be an example for other departments across the United States.
For over a year and a half now, the Arkansas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association has helped to teach officers in the Little Rock area the necessary knowledge that is needed in handling the Alzheimer’s population. The training includes lessons on the various symptoms associated with the disease, as well as how to handle certain situations where patients may be causing disturbances or other types of problems.
Alzheimer's disease is more common among the elderly, meaning this specific type of training will become even more necessary as the baby boomer generation grows older, increasing the likelihood of mental disorder cases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
You may be wondering why this training was started in the first place. Because, what exactly would an officer deal with, in terms of an Alzheimer's patient? The answer to this has a variety of layers, however there are some occurrences that can happen more than others in terms of patients with Alzheimer’s and their interaction with the community.
One local news source called Arkansasmatters.com makes mention of the type of scenarios that can occur, like, “911 calls… [that] include car accidents, erratic driving, false reports, indecent exposure and shoplifting.” Handling patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, from the law enforcement perspective, presents many unique challenges that must be handled delicately. In terms of confronting these situations, Officer Steve Moore states, “Understand they're reacting to whatever's going on in their head… Understand they don't want to be in this predicament that they're in. Don't just walk up on them, don't be loud, don't touch them. They startle very easily. You want to be Mr. Friendly as much as possible. Just be kind and be patient with them and try to get them back to their family."
Moore himself has personal experience with understanding patients with Alzheimer’s disease, as his mother was diagnosed with the mental illness. Because of this, Moore has recognized the progressive nature of the disease, and understands that it often brings confusion. His mother has wandered away from the house three separate times, wherein Moore’s sister was called to help (as she is her primary caregiver).
The growth in the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease will make it all the more important that officers, such as Moore, have this necessary understanding of what it takes to handle patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease from a law enforcement perspective.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of progressive disorder that is most commonly associated with symptoms, such as confusion and impaired memory functions. Just three years ago, over 45 million individuals had been reported as having Alzheimer’s disease. This figure could very well see an increase, as predictions show the statistic nearly doubling in the next two decades, to reach a worldwide total of around 75 million cases. Alzheimer’s disease is categorized as a certain type of dementia, and proves to be the most common form.
The disease’s cause was first discovered in the early 1900's by a man named Dr. Alois Alzheimer. More so, the origin of the mental disorder was identified as stemming from a build-up of a certain type of protein known as beta-amyloid inside the brain. Looking at the bigger picture, the catalyst for the severe symptoms caused by Alzheimer’s disease is seen in the impacted transport system within the brain, which serves the purpose of communicating certain commands from the brain to other regions of the body.
In addition to the distinct damage to the brain, namely the brain tissue, other factors can increase the likelihood of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. These include older age, genetics, gender (Alzheimer’s is more commonly seen in women), as well as a past history of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), head trauma, and unhealthy lifestyle habits.
Doctors are able to diagnose Alzheimer’s through the use of a number of methods. These can include a variety of brain-imaging technology such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and computerized tomography (CT) scans. In terms of treatment, doctors will often recommend the use of medications specific to Alzheimer's disease, however, no treatment has been discovered up until this point that has been able to completely reverse the symptoms of the disorder. The most commonly used treatment methods will include a series of drugs, namely cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine.
The future for Alzheimer’s patients
As can be seen by the training methods being adapted by the Little Rock Police Department, a number of steps are being taken towards better methods of handling situations regarding mentally-ill individuals, such as those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The adaptation of these training methods will prove to be of use, as the projected cases of Alzheimer's disease, among other mental disorders, is predicted to drastically increase.
Without proper measures being taken to combat this issue, the community as a whole could feel the impact. This being said, a variety of research efforts have also been in place to search for the cure to Alzheimer’s disease serves as a primary driver of such studies. In addition to this, scientists and researchers have sought to discover more effective treatment methods for affected patients, which in turn reduces the severity of symptoms that patients may experience.
Aside from training methods and various treatment methods, one of the best solutions in handling these types of situations starts with greater awareness and understanding of what Alzheimer’s disease actually is. With this improved understanding, the community as a whole will be able to acknowledge the many intricacies of the disorder and handle different situations with patients accordingly.