Responding with Kindness and Understanding

Responding with Kindness and Understanding

For older adults living with dementia and their caregivers, going about their daily routines can be difficult. Interactions with store associates, servers, tellers, and even in times of emergencies with first responders, can be challenging, because they may not know how best to engage with them.

Last year, YCCF’s Hahn Home Fund supported a collaboration between Good News Consulting (GNC) and Embracing Aging (EA) to develop a two-day training course designed to improve the relationship between first responders and older adults in York County.

The course is for law enforcement, EMT employees, firefighters, emergency preparedness teams, and search and rescue personnel. “By increasing first responders’ knowledge of the impact of ageism and the challenges faced by older adults living with dementia, we are giving them tools to better serve our community,” shared Cathy Bollinger, YCCF’s Managing Director of Embracing Aging.

Over 60% of people living with dementia are reported missing after wandering out of their homes. “Interactions with police officers or emergency responders can be a scary experience for a person with dementia,” explained Tina Hess, President & CEO of Good News Consulting. “They’re already confused, and the responding officers may not be aware that they are talking with someone who has cognitive decline unless you’re trained on the symptoms and behaviors.”

Through this collaboration, Alison Sprankle of GNC, became a Certified First Responder Dementia Trainer, authorizing her to certify the participants in the training. First responders learn about the key aspects of dementia and how to best communicate with older adults living with dementia. They also become more aware of their attitudes about aging and how it can impact their interactions with older adults.

Visiting Angels-York and Dementia Friendly York/Adams also assisted in the training. This collaboration is one of the goals of York County’s Age-Friendly Action Plan, developed by YCCF’s Embracing Aging program. To learn more about York County’s enrollment into the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities, visit