by Lisa Tome
Gabe Rimolo finished his night shift at Elkton police department last Friday morning but it wasn't time to go home yet.
First, the officer had to complete a series of tasks such as matching up socks, clearing a dinner table, and threading a belt into a pair of pants. Rimolo was just one of the officers and town staffers who completed training on dealing with a unique part of the population - those struggling with dementia.
Staff from the Arden Courts assisted living facility in Delaware provided the training free of charge to Elkton. Arden Courts staffer Stacy Wiseman explained that the purpose was to provide officers with a greater understanding. That understanding came by way of vision narrowing glasses, two pairs of gloves, shoe inserts designed to imitate the pain of neuropathy, and headphones constantly playing a series or white noise including buzzing sounds and sirens.
Officer Rimolo suited up in these items and was then led to a room. He was given a list of five tasks to complete while wearing the simulation items. He was given five minutes to put a belt in belt loops, match up pairs of socks, clear a dining table, draw a picture of his family and name the members, and put on a necktie. Staff are not allowed to repeat the items or provide coaching in anyway.
Rimolo knew he wasn't going to do well. "I only heard three of the instructions I think," he said. He quickly put the belt in the loops of a pair of pants. He then matched up the socks. "Yep. I forgot what else I'm supposed to do," he said. "This is difficult. I'm at a loss. This is a strange situation to be in."
Since he wasn't sure of the other instructions, he improvised. Rimolo poured a glass of water at the table he was supposed to clear. "This is frustrating," he said.
Following the five minutes of tasks, Rimolo reviewed his work with a staffer. He experienced pacing, negative thoughts, and talked to himself, just as those stricken with dementia do. He was then given tips on dealing with those with dementia and a pocket guide to carry with him.
"For me, this has been interesting. I felt stressed during the training. But it was cool to get an understanding of what goes on with them," he said.