Dementia-friendly rescue squad in Marinette County

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 3:04 PM CDT
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COLEMAN, Wis. (WBAY) - The Coleman Area Rescue Squad holds a unique distinction in Marinette County.

It’s the now the first ambulance service in the county to have received dementia-friendly training, known as Purple Angel training.

Since 2017, the Dementia Friendly Community Coalition of Marinette County has provided Purple Angel training to 656 people representing 79 businesses and organizations

“The mission is to help our community to be receptive to people with dementia so that they can move about the community for as long as they can throughout their disease,” says June Ehlers with the Dementia Friendly Community Coalition of Marinette County.

After spending years as the caregiver for her husband in his battle with dementia, Ehlers became one of the Coalition’s trainers.

The hour-long session focuses on interacting with compassion.

“How to communicate, things not to do, for instance constantly tell them it’s ok, never argue, never correct a person with dementia, approach them from the front, not from the side because they often have visual difficulties and hearing difficulties and you startle them and scare them, they might not recognize you,” explains Ehlers.

Just this week, the Coleman Area Rescue Squad became the latest to receive the Purple Angel training, which members feel is invaluable.

“The majority of our calls are for elderly people and with that a percentage of those are dementia and there’s different forms of dementia of course, so it just helps us all the way around for taking calls and getting down to their level and talking slower, communicating better, because they’re going through something where maybe it’s a fractured hip, or a diabetic problem and they just don’t understand why we’re there,” says Curt Tisler, Coleman Area Rescue Squad President.

“And then get a little better understanding and then everybody can be on the same page, absolutely,” adds Ida Soletske, Coleman Area Rescue Squad Vice President, who also serves as Coleman’s Police Chief.

Along with the training, comfort bags are provided containing items aimed to relieve stress in emergency situations.

It’s a program the county is grateful to see expanding.

“To bring awareness of the disease and to build a little bit of empathy and patience and realizing that you need to go into that person’s reality because you can’t pull them into ours and I think it’s important the more people that are aware, the more supportive we can be as a community to these individuals and their caregivers,” says Allyson Jones, Marinette County Aging and Disability Resource Center Dementia Care Specialist.

The Dementia Friendly Community Coalition in Marinette County hopes to expand Purple Angel training to more first responders, and eventually families.

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