Carson City and Lyon County law enforcement participate in wandering persons training

Alzheimer's Association Regional Director Jacob Harmon speaks to Sheriff's Dept. members Thursday evening in Carson City.

Alzheimer's Association Regional Director Jacob Harmon speaks to Sheriff's Dept. members Thursday evening in Carson City.

In order to more efficiently handle wandering persons calls, local law enforcement took part in training to better interact and search for wandering people.

Carson City Search and Rescue, dispatchers, deputies and Lyon County officers took part in the training Thursday night at the Carson City Sheriff’s Department. Jacob Harmon, regional director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern Nevada, presented a PowerPoint to deputies explaining various tips and techniques for how to interact with people with dementia and Alzheimer’s and get them home safely.

“Old guys like me are starting to get Alzheimer’s and dementia and caregivers do their best but sometimes people get away,” said Bill Fergus, Carson City Search and Rescue coordinator. “That’s where law enforcement and Search and Rescue come in.”

Wandering is an increasing problem, there are 20,000 people living with Alzheimer’s in Northern Nevada and 70 percent of them are going to wander said Harmon. If not found in 24 hours, there’s a 50 percent risk of the person sustaining severe injury or death so it’s important for law enforcement to quickly be able to find wandering people.

Harmon explained to law enforcement Alzheimer’s is caused by proteins that essentially suffocate parts of the brain, which is why it’s so difficult for them when they wander because they believe in a reality that may not be correct.

“It can be frustrating but we have to remember that it’s not their fault,” Harmon said. “They can’t do anything, that part of their brain is gone forever.”

One important tip law enforcement learned was to never argue with a person with dementia because that’s when the interaction could turn negative. Harmon also told law enforcement when interacting with people with dementia officers need to talk slowly and simply because they’re fearful, confused and disoriented.

The training was beneficial for all of law enforcement, including helping first responders talk with people with dementia as well as dispatchers when they first take the call, so they can ask certain questions to better help search parties locate the person.

“We get wandering person calls quite frequently, more in graveyard shift when caretakers are sleeping and stuff,” said Carson City dispatcher Jenn Davis. “I now know the questions to ask, this was a great training.

“I am thankful to have the basics to pass on to the other dispatchers because this helps us dial in on specific details and we know what questions to ask to help Search and Rescue and patrol to respond in a timely manner.”


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