FIRE crews have been trained to identify people with dementia.
In a first for Scotland, firefighters at Motherwell Fire Station have been schooled in how to look for the early signs of the condition.
As first told in the Evening Times last month, an initiative between Strathclyde Fire and Rescue (SFR) and NHS staff is aiming to help stop fires in the homes of vulnerable people. The first part – which has seen all five watches in Motherwell station given dementia training – has now been completed.
It was set up by NHS worker Pete Gilfedder and dementia consultant Sandra Shafii.
Watch Commander Jim Muir was one of the first SFR staff to be trained by Ms Shafii.
He said: "Anything that increases our knowledge of the kind of community we are working in helps immensely.
"Anything that gives us a sense of how to deal with people with dementia and how to spot the early signs is really helpful.
"We are trained to respond very quickly to situations and to ask a lot of questions.
"Someone with dementia would not be able to cope as well in that situation so now we know how to spot the signs and how to talk to the person appropriately.
"In the area we work in as well, we can often encounter hostility from the people we're helping.
"People with dementia can sometimes act angrily from confusion so we have also learned to respond properly to that too."
Health professionals believe it is important for people with dementia to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.
But those with the illness are vulnerable to accidents as they struggle with making decisions and with memory.
Ms Shafii wanted to make sure people with dementia were given appropriate fire prevention advice and approached SFR.
Now she is training fire crews – and fire crews are training allied health professionals (AHPs) in looking for fire risks when they are dealing with vulnerable people, both in hospitals and during home visits.
Anyone at risk is referred to SFR for a home fire safety visit, which will be carried out with a health worker.
Firefighters can put practical steps in place to help make the home of a person with dementia much safer. At the same time, firefighters are being trained to look for the early signs of dementia during home fire safety visits or live incidents.
Bosses said the work is all the more important as Scotland faces an ageing population and with it a growing number of people with dementia.
SFR already has an Older Person Strategy in place and the dementia strategy is a follow on from this.