A pioneer in the training of Colorado police officers to respond with appropriate skill and understanding during contacts with persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, Wheat Ridge Police Division Chief Jim Lorentz has been honored with the inaugural “Alzheimer’s Hero Award.”
A 37-year veteran of the Wheat Ridge police department, Lorentz has volunteered with the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association for more than 10 years. He has trained thousands of law enforcement personnel and other first responders to deal more effectively with challenging situations where the individual involved may not be able to react rationally to officers’ questions.
“As police officers, we are seeing more and more of these situations,” said Lorentz, who has provided training to 1,400 Denver Police officers as well as Douglas, Jefferson, Adams, Eagle and Arapahoe County sheriff’s officers and officers from the police departments in Wheat Ridge, Englewood, Lakewood, Avon, Eagle, Vail and Gypsum. “How do we deal with people with afflictions like Alzheimer’s? How do we prevent confrontations? Often, there are better and more effective ways to handle these situations.”
Lorentz also was a driving force behind the Colorado Life Track program, a wandering/safety device system designed for persons living with memory issues to help ensure their safety. The program is offered free of charge for Wheat Ridge residents.
“When I think of heroes and role models for our community, Jim Lorentz is the first person who comes to mind,” said Amelia Schafer, interim executive director of the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “We have been blessed to have Jim as a volunteer and partner for so many years. He brings passion, dedication and compassion to his volunteer work with us.”
“It is truly an honor to be recognized by the Alzheimer’s Association with the very first ‘Hero Award,’ said Lorentz. “I think people living with dementia, caregivers, family members, researchers and folks from the Alzheimer’s Association, as well as the cops on the street, are the real heroes. I am proud to be able to provide some tools to law enforcement so that they can help our communities adapt and overcome adversity to find solutions for positive outcomes.”
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia pose a growing challenge for police and other first responders, as well as healthcare workers and others who may encounter persons living with this disease in daily life.
“Bank tellers. Retail clerks. Coffee shop baristas. There are any number of people who may interact with a person with Alzheimer’s during a typical day,” said Schafer. “Sometimes those encounters can create confusion and fear. That makes Jim Lorentz’s work that much more important to help avoid potential problems.” There are 5.7 million people in the United States living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia,
with 71,000 of them in Colorado.