A bill requiring law enforcement officers to undergo regular training on how to properly handle the behaviors of people with Alzheimer's disease has just been signed into law by Indiana state governor, Mike Pence.
The mandate comes nearly one year after an Indiana police officer used his Taser multiple times to subdue a local nursing home resident who suffered from Alzheimer's disease.
The resident, 64-year-old James Howard, had reportedly become extremely agitated in the early hours of the morning, prompting staff at the nursing home to call 911. The police report says Howard repeatedly hit several nursing home employees and refused to listen to the law enforcement officers' command after they had arrived on the scene. Howard's behavior was allegedly so out of control that the policemen saw no other recourse than to tase and handcuff him.
The incident sparked ire and debate in the elder care community; and led to the investigation, and ultimate dismissal of the officer who used his stun gun on James.
It also served as the catalyst for the new law, which states that all Indiana law enforcement officers must attend annual seminars on how to safely and effectively communicate with and assist people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
This education is vital because, as any caregiver can attest to, it can be difficult to know how to control Alzheimer's disease behavior issues.
The author of the bill, state representative Bill Friend, points out the necessity of requiring such training, especially in light of the growing number of American adults suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
"It's really a matter of public safety," Friend tells FOX59, an Indianapolis affiliate of FOX News, "There is a growing population of people affected by this disease, and it's important to treat them with respect and care."
Indiana isn't the only state to recognize the need to educate professional first responders on the proper ways to approach and handle a person who has Alzheimer's disease.
While there is currently no nationwide regulation that requires law enforcement officers to undergo Alzheimer's training, several states are well on their way towards passing mandates that mirror Indiana's. In Oklahoma, for instance, a similar bill is making its way through the state's legislative body, and was recently handed over to the governor to be signed in to law.
Other states take a more casual approach. While not a required course, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services does offer law enforcement first responders in their state with a comprehensive program explaining the ins and outs of dealing with people who have Alzheimer's disease.
These initiatives reflect the nationwide recognition that Alzheimer's disease is an issue that is not going to go away in the coming years—it's only going to get bigger.
Due to the growing number of adults being diagnosed with dementia, law enforcement officers are increasingly likely to encounter people with Alzheimer's in various states of distress (i.e. those who have wandered away from home, or have become lost while driving). Teaching these first responders the right way to calm and assist disoriented individuals could go a long way towards avoiding future incidents of unnecessary tasing.