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Troy L. Wheeler

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Strategy: Securing Property of Seniors in Long-Term Care Facilities

Strategy Securing the property of seniors helps provide the safest possible living and working environment for staff and residents . . .

Strategy

Securing the property of seniors helps provide the safest possible living and working environment for staff and residents of long-term care facilities, including assisted-living, retirement, and independent living communities.

Community Problem Addressed

Elderly people can be particularly vulnerable to the crimes of burglary, purse snatching, theft, and fraud. This strategy combines prevention education with risk management to ensure the safety of residents, staff members, family members, visitors, and vendors.

Key Components

One of the most predominant problems in a care facility is lost, misplaced, and stolen items. Personal items can be stored in a convenient location within a resident's room.

On-going education is key to the success of the strategy. This component consists of educating all department heads and managers and setting standards for staff behavior. Service level employees must be educated on how to secure residents' belongings and should be responsible for teaching residents how to prevent the theft of their belongings. Because of high turnover rates in most facilities it is important to screen and educate new employees as they are hired. Notifying the families of senior residents helps give everyone peace of mind that the facility is taking steps to protect their loved ones. A letter can notify family members of whom to contact if they experience any problems.

A tip line and cash reward component can help confront the fear seniors may feel. After an incident has occurred, posters displayed around the property give information about the crime. Residents, family members, and staff can place an anonymous call to a tip line where they can report any information they may have about the crime. A cash reward is assigned based on the value of the item stolen.

Key Partnerships

Partners include Triad, a national organization that addresses crime issues affecting older citizens. Local Crimestopper chapters operate in a variety of communities.

Potential Obstacles

At first, facility managers and owners may be reluctant to employ this strategy because they think it will send the message that the facility has a crime problem.

Examples of Success and Results

Senior Crimestoppers was started in Memphis, Tennessee, in September 1995. The program was started by USI Alliance, which operates as a subsidiary of National Commerce Bancorporation. After USI Alliance and a group of banks conducted a study on ways to provide safety deposit boxes in community places, they developed a kiosk lock box system and put it in several test sites, including a nursing home.  It became apparent that there was a need for lock boxes and other prevention programs in some nursing homes because of the unsafe reputation of some facilities and the high incidence of stolen personal items in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

The key components of the Senior Crimestoppers program are personal lock boxes, on-going education, and tip line cash rewards. Since the program began in 1995, it is now working in over 1,400 long-term care facilities in small and large communities in 46 states. As of October 31, 1998, participating facilities experienced a reduction in crime of 90.5 percent. Participants in the program have become less fearful, and families have more peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are in a safe environment.

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