Bill would require Alzheimer's training for first responders

Rosie and Pete Antonides

Are Indiana police officers prepared to deal with our aging population?

A bill moving through the Indiana Statehouse would require that the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy provide training to deal with people with Alzheimer's disease or related senile dementia.

The bill was filed in response to an incident in Peru last June when a police officer used a stun gun on a 62-year-old nursing home resident with advanced Alzheimer's five times.

The proposal means a lot to Rosie Antonides, whose husband Pete has Alzheimer's.

Going over their daybooks is part of the morning routine for Pete and Rosie Antonides. The couple has been married for nearly 60 years, but the last two years have been quite different.

"They are still the same sweet person you knew. But sometimes it's not able to get out," said Rosie Antonides.

 81-year-old Pete was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2011, ten days after suffering a stroke.

"You don't know how fast it will move," said Pete Antonides.

The couple isn't shying away from Pete's problem: "It makes it easier for the caregiver and the person who has it to face it and accept it and go on."

The Antonides' believe awareness would help first responders as well.  They hope a bill requiring Alzheimer's training at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy does pass.

"Everybody needs Alzheimer's education as well because it is becoming more common and more and more people have it," said Rosie.

Indiana's Alzheimer's Association already has training videos made to show people how to communicate with someone with dementia.

Local chapter organizers told Eyewitness News they hope to receive state funding to put the training program online. These videos could be used to educated first responders.

Pete and Rosie Antonides said until the training is in place, it's best to make sure they keep others aware. The couple wears their medic alert bracelets to let first responders know Pete has Alzheimer's.

"It's becoming more and more prevalent. More and more people are being diagnosed everyday," said Rosie.

It is estimated that half of people over 85 have Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

All police officers in Indiana currently undergo training on autism, mental illness, addictive disorders, mental retardation and developmental disabilities.

State Representative Bill Friend authored HB 1044. Rep. Friend told Eyewitness News Alzheimer's training is a perfect add-on to the mandatory requirements at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

The bill passed the House and will be up for a vote in the Senate later this spring.