READING – The Reading Police Department has completed training and obtained Dementia Friendly Reading designation.

Dementia Friendly Reading, a subgroup of Dementia Friendly Massachusetts, awarded the department the designation this month. Dementia Friendly Reading is a community group that trains and informs local businesses, organizations and the general public about the needs of those suffering with symptoms of dementia.

The group's goal is to ensure that Reading is a place that empowers those with dementia and their caregivers to feel valued and actively engaged in the community.

"The Reading Police Department has prioritized dementia training to ensure our officers and civilian employees are well prepared to assist those with dementia in the community," Deputy Police Chief David Clark said. "Dementia Friendly training has been incredibly valuable to our officers, and we're honored to be a part of the movement to make our town a more Dementia Friendly community."

To receive this designation, every officer in the department received training to support residents struggling with symptoms of dementia and memory impairment. In addition to the training the officers receive in the police academy, the department also received training during their annual training updates. Civilian employees of the department have also attended Dementia Friendly Reading workshops and the department is in the process of training its remaining civilian employees. New hires moving forward will also receive Dementia Friendly training.

"Dementia Friendly Reading is sparking a great initiative in our town to recognize the signs of dementia and to learn communication strategies to better interact with those residents struggling with dementia," said Community Service Officer Kristen O'Shaughnessy. "As a police department, it's crucial that our officers are trained to effectively interact with and serve every member of our community, including families and residents touched by dementia."

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 50 million people worldwide live with some form of dementia, a range of diseases and conditions with symptoms including a decline in memory and other thinking skills beyond the normal effects of aging.

For a business or town department in Reading to earn the Dementia Friendly Designation, senior management must be trained to recognize the signs of dementia and commit to training existing staff and future employees. Once trained, policies and practices must be implemented to help support those with dementia and their caregivers.

Officer O'Shaughnessy has been a part of the Dementia Friendly Reading leadership team since 2017 and works closely with team members to address the needs of both caregivers and those directly impacted by dementia. Her involvement has been integral in spreading dementia awareness throughout the Town of Reading.

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