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People We Should Know

Chief Jim Lorentz Training First Responders To Deal With Dementia

lorentz IMG 1527IN ADDITION TO HIS WORK IN LAW ENFORCEMENT, Wheat Ridge Police Division Chief Jim Lorentz trains first responders around Colorado on identifying people with dementia. PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF WHEAT RIDGE

By Elisabeth Monaghan

For 37 years, Police Division Chief Jim Lorentz has served and protected the Wheat Ridge community, but his role as a police officer is only one of the qualities that make him a hero. In addition to his work in law enforcement, Lorentz trains first responders around Colorado on identifying people with dementia.

It started when his wife’s mother was diagnosed with dementia at age 58. To understand the disease as she took on her new role as long-distance caregiver, Jill Lorentz sought out resources. She began working with the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association – first as a volunteer, and then as a full-time employee. From there, she went on to establish Summit Resilience Training, which provides training and valuable information for anyone dealing with or wanting to know more about Alzheimer’s and dementia. In addition to her work with Summit Resilience Training, Jill also has a weekly podcast called Dementia Resilience.

After his mother-in-law was diagnosed, Jim Lorentz made it his mission to learn as much as he could about the disease. In 2009, he took advantage of training offered by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) as part of its Alzheimer’s Initiative. Lorentz has drawn upon this “train the trainers” program, along with 10 years of volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association, to design the training he provides first responders throughout the state of Colorado under the umbrella of Critical Intervention Training (CIT).

Why does Lorentz believe this training is crucial? According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, an estimated 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s dementia. Of these, 5.5 million are age 65 and older, and about 200,000 are under age 65 with younger-onset Alzheimer’s. Currently, one in 10 people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s; one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. On its website, the Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention estimates that one in six women and one in 10 men, who live past the age of 55, will develop dementia in their lifetime.

As the population ages, the number of people living with dementia, including Alzheimer’s, will increase. This means police officers, EMTs, firefighters, etc., are likely to encounter individuals with dementia when responding to situations like car accidents, reports of shoplifting, domestic violence or disoriented and lost individuals. Of the different types of dementia, Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTP) is a form first responders are likely to encounter. When an individual has FTP, she or he frequently demonstrates lack of judgment, inappropriate social behavior and the inability to control themselves.

“That’s what we want to talk to first responders about,” explains Lorentz. “In the training, we discuss what questions we can ask. We’re just trying to handle things in the moment, so if the individual shows symptoms that look like FTP, we want to determine the best direction for us to take under these circumstances.”

When answering a call, first responders who have participated in Lorentz’s program are prepared to de-escalate a heated situation. One technique he teaches is redirection. For example, when confronting a hostile individual who shows signs of FTP or other forms of dementia, a police officer may redirect the discussion by commenting on the person’s shoes.

“We know how frustrating it is when people don’t understand us,” says Lorentz. It can be even more difficult when the misunderstood person has dementia.

“By redirecting the conversation and getting them to calm down so we can talk a little bit, we have a better chance of figuring out what they want or are trying to accomplish. If we can figure that out and help them, we have a better chance of success.”

Lorentz also emphasizes that the best outcomes happen when first responders take their time to address the situation.

Since launching his program, Lorentz has trained about 3,500 first responders from around the state including Vail, Eagle County, Englewood, Jefferson County, Denver, Arapaho County, Adams County and Douglas County. Lorentz plans to continue training first responders, but currently has no desire to package the training or write a book about it.

“I think the stuff that I do is not particularly unique,” says Lorentz, “but I like to think I’ve made a difference in metro Denver.”

Considering that Lorentz was recognized as a hero this past May by the Colorado Alzheimer’s Association, it is evident he has indeed made a difference and by continuing to pass along his knowledge of identifying and working with dementia patients, he will continue to do so.

Although the Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s took place on Sept. 15, there are other opportunities to donate time or money to the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s association. To learn more, visit

For more information about Jill Lorentz’s work with Alzheimer’s patients, their loved ones and their caregivers, visit To inquire about the training from Jim Lorentz, email him at

Jazz Vocalist Overcame Challenges To Succeed As Full-Time Musician

Tina PhillipsA JAZZ VOCALIST ON DENVER’S MUSIC SCENE for 40 years, Sloan Lake resident Tina Phillips says singing has always brought her joy. PHOTO BY KEN LUTES

By Ken Lutes

I’ve been singing since I was child. It has always brought me joy,” says Denver jazz vocalist and composer Tina Phillips, who also teaches private vocal lessons.

“Some people don’t realize the depth of what I do, that I really am a full-time musician. I’m a serious performing musician. I have dedicated my life to music.”

During a recent visit to her home in the Sloan Lake neighborhood, Phillips spoke about difficult challenges that she and artists of all kinds face in this country.

“[To be] an artist in this country, whether you’re a dancer, a visual artist, a photographer, or a musician, you have to work your butt off constantly. The economy can change, and clubs constantly go [out of business].”

She said the biggest challenge is staying positive while you’re trying to make a living, and not giving up. The business side of the career can discourage artists, too.

“People think that musicians just go out and perform, and they don’t realize how much time it takes to talk to club owners, or find venues; or to put contracts together and hire the other musicians and put the music charts together; and to produce a concert and make sure everybody gets paid. Being a musician is a full-time job, and the performance is the small part of it.”

Once the business end is settled, she concentrates on the performance, the fun part, the part that connects her to “the brilliance of music.”

“I’ve always loved jazz,” she said, “and I knew that if I wanted to be serious about music I’d have to go to music school. I became a vocal performance major at CU Denver and studied that for years. I got my skills up and made some connections.

“I had my son, got a divorce; I knew that I needed to support my son, so instead of continuing with school I started performing professionally and teaching.

“When my son was in grade school, I had a part-time retail job that enabled me to take care of him, and I did that for about 10 years until I was able to perform and teach full time. I wake up every day just totally grateful and in awe that I get to do this.

“There are two things I’m most proud of and they’re equal. I’m most proud of my son – the man that he is – and his family. And I’m most proud of my having been able to raise him as a single parent while I continued to do my music and succeed at that.”

Phillips grew up in a family of musicians. Her grandfather was a professional saxophone player, and his brother was a professional jazz piano player in Denver. When they were growing up in southern Colorado, they had a family band, playing mariachi music. In the 1970s, she bought a Martin D-18 and took some guitar lessons. That inspired her to start singing and performing.

She says she’s attracted to the brilliance of music, whether a tune is a really sad song about the emotions of life and life experiences or a more fun song like “Cheek to Cheek.” The artists who play and sing these songs with such depth of emotion and experience inspired her to want to perform.

“I was attracted to the way [Thelonious] Monk wrote, the way Bill Evans played, the way Billie Holiday or Sarah Vaughn sang a tune and inspired me to want to do those tunes.”

Her students also inspire her.

“The other day, one of my students, who just graduated from the Denver School of the Arts as a performance vocal major, wanted to work on a tune that I hadn’t sung for 30 years: ‘Am I Blue,’ a song from the 1920s. When she left, I started woodshedding that tune and fell in love with it all over again.”

Another important aspect of Phillips’ life is composing music and writing poetry, which she’s done since she was 6, when she wrote her very first song. Composing is “a big part of my life and what keeps me sane as I walk on this planet.”

Over the years that Phillips has “been blessed” to make a living doing what she does best, she has maintained a modest yet comfortable lifestyle. She says she could not now buy the charming home she lives in, located a scant half-block from Sloan’s Lake Park.

“My son is 38, so I’ve lived and worked in this space for 37 years. As a musician, I don’t know how I’ve been able to do this. To me, it’s miraculous.”

Phillips is working on more originals and eager to get back into a recording studio. She and mentor musician Art Lande have been talking about doing a jazzy Beatles night.

“Not sure just when that will come together, but I have some charts ready to go. I want my music to bring healing and joy to the people who come to the concerts – that’s the prayer I say before each show.”

Phillips’ love of music is the wind in her sails that keeps her going. Her dedication to the craft has maintained her professional presence on Denver’s music scene for more than 40 years.

“I wake up every single day, look around, and I say, ‘Thank you, God.’ I feel so humble to have such a beautiful space to live and work in; that is so inspiring.”