"Operation Dementia": Training for police officers in Austria

One of the goals of the Austrian dementia strategy is to integrate people with dementia into our society and enable them to participate in public life. Police officers as a professional group in public places are strongly challenged here, as they are often the first point of contact for people with dementia and their families in crisis situations. Special training and measures are needed to respond appropriately to the needs of people with dementia. Therefore, the project "Einsatz Demenz" was initiated.

The knowledge and experience of other professionals (e.g. from the health care sector) was made available to the police profession in order to promote skills in dealing with people with dementia. Three learning modules were developed on the basis of focus group interviews, the content of which was adapted to possible situations in the everyday work of the police officers.

The learning programme is available to all police officers via intranet and can be called up again at any time if necessary, supporting police officers in their dealings with those affected, facilitating networking of the police profession with other professions and creating awareness of the issue of dementia in our society. The well-known actor Adi Hirschal was won as an ambassador for this project, and a certification procedure was developed as an incentive system that enables the award of the title "Dementia Friendly Service" (together with the Ministry of the Interior as part of the initiative "Together Safe for People with Dementia"). The certification is carried out by the Danube University-Krems and the MAS Alzheimerhilfe.

Around 8000 police officers have already completed the e-learning modules with a certificate and 150 police stations throughout Austria meet the criteria for a "dementia-friendly service".