Tips for First Responders.

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National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration in Long Term Care


People with Cognitive Disabilities


  • My name is? I'm here to help you, not hurt you.
  • I am a ? (name your job).
  • I am here because ? (explain the situation).
  • I look different than my picture on my badge because ? (for example, if you are wearing protective equipment).


  • Your picture identification badge (as you say the above).
  • That you are calm and competent.


  • Extra time for the person to process what you are saying and to respond.
  • Respect for the dignity of the person as an equal and as an adult (example: speak directly to the person).
  • An arm to the person to hold as they walk. If needed, offer your elbow for balance.
  • If possible, quiet time to rest (as possible, to lower stress/fatigue).


  • Short sentences.
  • Simple, concrete words.
  • Accurate, honest information.
  • Pictures and objects to illustrate your words. Point to your ID picture as you say who you are, point to any protective equipment as you speak about it.


  • What will happen (simply and concretely)
  • When events will happen (tie to common events in addition to numbers and time, for example, "By lunch time" "By the time the sun goes down").
  • How long this will last? when things will return to normal (if you know).
  • When the person can contact/rejoin loved ones (for example: calls to family, re-uniting pets).

Ask for/Look for:

  • An identification bracelet with special health information.
  • Essential equipment and supplies (for example: wheelchair, walker, oxygen, batteries, communication devices [head pointers, alphabet boards, speech synthesizers, etc.]).
  • Medication.
  • Mobility aids (for example, assistance or service animal).
  • Special health instructions (for example: allergies).
  • Special communication information (for example, is the person using sign language)
  • Contact information.
  • Signs of stress and/or confusion (for example, the person might say [s] he is stressed, look confused, withdraw, start rubbing their hands together)..
  • Conditions that people might misinterpret (for example, someone might mistake Cerebral Palsy for drunkenness).


  • Reassurances (for example, You may feel afraid. That's OK. We're safe now.)
  • Encouragement (for example, "Thanks for moving fast. You are doing great.. Other people can look at you and know what to do").
  • Frequent updates on what's happening and what will happen next. Refer to what you predicted will happen, for example: "Just like I said before, we're getting into my car now. We'll go to now."


  • Distractions. For example: lower volume of radio, use flashing lights on vehicle only when necessary.


  • Any written material (including signs) in everyday words.
  • Public address system announcements in simple words.


  • The information you've learned about the person with other workers who'll be assisting the person.

United States Department of Health and Human Services

TJA Protection-Systems International

Notice: While certification promotes and maintains quality, it does not license, confer a right or privilege upon or otherwise define the qualifications of anyone in the healthcare field.


Practitioner - one who practices a profession

“Someday there will be a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. Until that day, continue with your dementia education. They deserve your best!” Sandra Stimson NCCDP CEO