Strategy: Daily Wellness Checks
Strategy Law enforcement can use wellness checks as a way to work directly with seniors to create innovative solutions . . .
Law enforcement can use wellness checks as a way to work directly with seniors to create innovative solutions to specific crime and wellness problems.
Community Problem Addressed
Many senior citizens live alone and medical emergencies may not be addressed because there is no one whom to report them. This strategy ensures daily checks on their health, while allowing law enforcement the opportunity to educate seniors about crime and its prevention.
The components of this strategy include information and training on how to report crimes and health emergencies (use of the 911 emergency system); services to support senior victims in dealing with the physical, emotional, and financial impacts of crime; and daily check-ups on the health and wellness of senior shut-ins by the police department.
Key partners include the police, social services agencies, community groups, and religious groups. In communities with limited police personnel, volunteers can be used to call participating seniors. Volunteers can be recruited from senior-led groups such as AARP chapters and the AARP-supported Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT) committees of the nationally known Triad crime prevention program. In addition, Meals on Wheels, senior housing, and senior-focused health care center personnel should be made aware of and involved in this strategy.
Special populations-such as seniors and handicapped-are often more reluctant to seek special assistance for personal safety and health problems. They may feel that they have little power and control over their circumstances and that there are no solutions to their problems. Some seniors feel they must fight to keep their independence, and feel that asking for help undermines their sense of autonomy. Local law enforcement can address these fears by talking with neighborhood and senior organizations, addressing the problems of seniors, and encouraging seniors and care workers to work with police.
A pool of dedicated volunteers is needed to keep this program going. It is wise to publicize the program to encourage people to be a part of it, either as a volunteer or as a recipient.
Examples of Success and Results
The Taylor Mill, Kentucky, Police Department [population 9,000], began the Because We Care program in 1990 to offer assistance to seniors and physically impaired shut-in residents. The program is designed to reduce police/EMS/fire response time in the event of an emergency and to help prevent crimes such as assault and fraud on seniors or those living with serious physical limitations. The police department has a telephone line with a tape recorder specifically for Care program participants. Every day, even weekends and holidays, participants call in to the department between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and noon. If the department has not heard from a member by noon, a police officer will call that residence. If they are unsuccessful in contacting the participant, an officer will drive to the residence and check on the occupant. This program is free of charge.
Since January 1990, the Casa Grande Senior Phone Patrol has served Casa Grande, Arizona [population 23,000]. Its main goal is to ensure that senior citizens are not the "forgotten ones" in the community. There is tremendous support for this program as evidenced by discussions in city council and town meetings and the number of volunteers the program attracts. Not only does this program check up on home bound or single seniors, but also it gives them valuable information on crime prevention, health, and safety, such as fraud prevention and emergency contacts. The volunteers listen to the seniors' needs and if necessary can refer them to services such as Meals on Wheels. They also sponsor an annual Christmas party for participants. The program is very inexpensive and can be run on a budget of just a few hundred dollars a year for special events, such as the Christmas party. The Phone Patrol has succeeded in making seniors feel less isolated from the police department and community and lets them know that someone is looking out for them.