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Alzheimer’s 1st responders: “We don’t have the awareness or the skill”

Alzheimer’s 1st responders: “We don’t have the awareness or the skill”
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June 24, 2021
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When news spread this year of the unfortunate arrest of a 73-year-old Loveland woman with Alzheimer’s disease for shoplifting, law enforcement officials across Colorado took notice.

“We don’t have enough awareness of Alzheimer’s or skill in dealing with it,” said Chief George Dingfelder of the Monte Vista Police Department in Rio Grande County in south-central Colorado. “This is a difficult disease to deal with for all parties, even for family members.”

Chief Dingfelder noted that the Loveland arrest story coincided with what he saw as a growing trend in his jurisdiction of interactions between his officers and people with dementia and their families. His own need for information on the subject drove him to the internet, which led him to the Alzheimer’s Association. 

As a result, Chief Dingfelder, the Monte Visa Police Department and the Alzheimer’s Association are hosting aMVPD.jpg virtual regional San Luis Valley Law Enforcement/First Responder Alzheimer's and Dementia Training June 30 to help bridge the information gap. He’s making the training mandatory for his officers. 

“I’m thankful that I’ve made this connection with the Alzheimer’s Association,” said the chief. “Everyone in these situations is experiencing frustration. First and foremost, we must take care of the individual with dementia. Then we need to know how to help the family members get the resources they need.”

The Baby Boomer effect
Consider that there are more than 76,000 Coloradans living with Alzheimer’s, about half of those undiagnosed. And, knowing that age is the leading risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s, the number of older Americans is rising annually as the number of Baby Boomers progressing beyond age 70 continues to grow. 

Currently, there are 6.2 million Americans ages 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers estimate that as Baby Boomers age, that total will jump 16% to 7.2 million by 2025, putting added pressure on families, the healthcare system and first responders alike.

The turning point for Chief Dingfelder was responding to a call that took him into a home with a couple, 84 and 86 years of age. One was living with dementia, and the other was serving as caregiver. That made him realize the need for better education regarding Alzheimer’s disease for his staff, and the ability for them to direct family members to the resources offered at no charge by the Alzheimer’s Association.

“We need to create better awareness of the disease,” he said. “This is an ugly disease, and we need to learn how to cope with it better.”

To learn more about resources offered by the Alzheimer’s Association at no charge to Colorado families, call the free Helpline at 800-272-3900. It is staffed around the clock by trained professionals. Or go to

Alzheimer's Association

The Alzheimer's Association leads the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.™ For more information, visit or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.

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