Firefighters take on new dementia training - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Firefighters take on new dementia training

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Sunglasses, gardening gloves, headphones, and folding laundry -- it's not your typical firefighter training scene.

“We're giving you a little bit of arthritis, or simulating it, maybe a little bit of cataracts, a little bit hard to hear,” said Renee Riffey, a trainer for the new Dementia Live training at the Cedar Rapids fire station.

Firefighters use special equipment to better understand dementia.

“I think any time you do training, it's important to put the providers in the shoes of the people they're taking care of,” said Andy Olesen, the Cedar Rapids training chief.

Firefighters attempt everyday tasks with blurred vision and loud, confusing noises in their ears.

“Suddenly those tasks are not so simple," Riffey said.

I put on the equipment and gave it a try myself.

Folding a shirt took me more than a minute.

I struggled to feed a pet.

And taking medicine was nearly impossible.

“When you walk in the shoes of somebody experiencing any ailment," Riffey said, "we can be better caregivers as a result of it, because we kind of get what they might be going through.”

It's especially helpful when more than half the calls the fire department responds to are medical.

“I think there's no question that we've benefited, I've benefited and the department as a whole has benefited,” Olesen said.

The Cedar Rapids Fire Station is the first in the area to go through the training.

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