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February 1, 2013

Editorial - Feb. 1, 2013: New training a good idea

The issue: Requiring police training on how to handle encounters with people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Our view: With increases in the number of people with the disease, adding training makes sense.

 

In the United States, an estimated 5.4 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease. That’s 1 in 63 people.

And unless something is done to change the trajectory of the disease, as many as 16 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Here in Indiana, we’re on the same path as the nation.

In 2000, 100,000 Hoosiers over the age of 65 suffered from the disease. By 2010, there was a 20 percent jump in the number of patients. If we stay the course, that number is expected to jump to 130,000 by 2025.

As the disease becomes more prevalent, Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, accurately points out, instances of officers encountering people with Alzheimer’s will likely go up.

With that in mind, Friend introduced a bill earlier this month that would require all law enforcement officers in the state to receive training regarding people with Alzheimer’s disease.

All this stems from an incident at a Peru nursing home in which a police officer used a stun gun on a 64-year-old nursing home resident with advanced-stage Alzheimer’s five times.

While it’s unfortunately too late for that patient, this bill should do well to help others like him.

All too often, those suffering from Alzheimer’s find themselves in precarious situations and on the wrong side of the law through no fault of their own. The disease steals away their independence and ability to interact with others. Oftentimes, it leaves the patient without the ability to follow simple commands.

That’s a dangerous mix when an officer is unfamiliar with how to handle a situation involving someone affected by the disease.

“With more training, hopefully we’ll avoid a situation like this from ever happening again,” Friend said.

We couldn’t agree more.

Officers already undergo training on autism, mental illness, addictive disorders, mental retardation and developmental disabilities. Tacking Alzheimer’s disease or related senile dementia onto that list just makes sense.

The bill has been referred to the Senate for a vote, with Republican Randy Head and Democrat Jim Arnold sponsoring it.

We commend the House for seeing the need for this bill and encourage the Senate to follow the House’s lead.

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