Elder abuse is an all-too-common tragedy, one that people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia are at heightened risk to experience. Unfortunately, police, firefighters and emergency personnel – who are often the first to respond to abuse – have limited training about working with people who have dementia.

I am both a daughter and a wife of Alzheimer’s. Both my loved ones have had amazing support from family. Not everyone is lucky enough to have trusted and safe caregivers. Dementias often cause confusion, behavioral changes and diminished communication skills.

It is not always clear to know a person is living with the disease. It is an invisible disability. Many people living with the disease learn to cope. They might have a few answers that fit many questions. Training will help police, firefighters and emergency personnel know they are dealing with this invisible disability.

Thankfully, Sen. Susan Collins has been a leader, introducing the Alzheimer’s Association-endorsed Promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act (S. 3703/HR 6813). Passed unanimously by the Senate and just recently passed in the House, this bill will require the Department of Justice to develop training materials to assist professionals supporting victims of abuse living with dementia. Dementia-specific training materials for these professionals will help protect those in long-term care from elder abuse.

Please join me in thanking Sen. Collins for her work to help protect our nation’s seniors including those living with dementia who are most at risk.

Mary Dysart Hartt
Alzheimer’s ambassador

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