March 06, 2019
Supervisor Tanya Buckingham 608.576.3382
County Board

Dane County now providing “sensory bags” to first responders


First responders are now being provided with sensory bags containing stuffed animals, dolls, squishy balls or other items that can help distract a person suffering from dementia during an emergency.  Older adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia often live with anxiety, agitation, or anger.


The bags are handed out to dementia sufferers by police, EMS crews or others when they arrive on a call. The bags also contain instructions that can help first-responders effectively communicate with a dementia sufferer while offering aid or transportation.


“Any emergency situation is troubling enough, but it can be especially traumatic for someone suffering from dementia,” said Supervisor Tanya Buckingham (District 24, Monona), who spearheaded the effort to have the County pilot the use of dementia sensory bags by first responders in interested municipalities.  “These sensory bags have a proven record of bringing some relief, which in turn makes things easier for those attempting to render aid.”


Through the efforts of the county’s Department of Human Services Aging & Disability Resources Center (ARDC), 60 bags will be distributed to local municipalities including Monona and Sun Prairie. The ARDC was able to use a portion of a Dementia Care Specialist Grant to cover some of the costs.


“All across Dane County we are seeing more communities work to become dementia-friendly,” said Supervisor Jamie Kuhn (District 16, Madison), who serves as chair of the county’s Health and Human Needs Committee. “These bags are a small but important part of that effort.”


In addition to assembling and distributing the bags, the ARDC has been offering training to first-responders on assisting people with dementia. They are also distributing information cards that can be shared throughout the community.


Volunteers in Dane County, including the RSVP sewing group, have sewn and donated some of the multi- sensory muffs for this project, and have helped assemble the bags. Once the bags are given to an individual, due to sanitary reasons, they are left with that person who can either keep or dispose them.


Studies have shown that sensory therapy is an effective method for reducing anxiety, calming nerves and providing comfort without the use of medications. Seniors can use simple touch-based activities to occupy their hands and minds in safe and comforting ways.