Seniors living alone are more at risk for accidental falls, which can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and can increase the risk of early death.
As a result, the Foundation Assisting Seniors, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life in the senior community, has developed a call response program called HowRU.
“We knew this was a problem in the senior community,” said Gary Duffel, vice president of the foundation and developer of the program. “Last year, we discovered that over 35 people passed away in their homes at three senior communities in Sun City Anthem, Solera and Aliante, and no one knew about it until days or weeks later.”
The program was designed to minimize the risk of living alone by maintaining daily contact with those in need. Daily calls are made to the participant’s residence at a designated time to see if he is OK.
If he does not answer the phone, HowRU immediately calls his emergency contacts and has them check on him or call 911 if necessary.
To apply for the program, a Foundation Assisting Seniors representative can meet with prospective clients and have them fill out paperwork and sign an agreement.
The client will then select the time of day the call should be made and designate two emergency contacts. The contacts can be neighbors or relatives living in Nevada or elsewhere.
Once the program calls and the client answers, he is instructed to press 1 if he is fine and end the call. If the client does not answer the call, a second one will be made 15 minutes later.
If the client does not answer the second call, his contacts are notified. If no one answers, the calls are directed to the foundation’s hotline. The hotline monitor is instructed to make the same sequence of calls and call 911 if no one answers. The call sequence takes about 25 minutes, according to Duffel.
Duffel said the program recently helped a client who did not answer a call.
“When he didn’t respond, a next-door neighbor came in to check on him, and he was found in a state of confusion and was incoherent,” Duffel said. “He was rushed to the hospital and put in intensive care. He’s doing OK now, but without this calling system, there’s no telling what could’ve happened.”
The program is available to anyone 55 or older living in the U.S.
Carol Deegan has been using the program for six months.
“I wasn’t ready to join at first because I didn’t feel like I was old enough to be a part of this system,” she said. “My daughter is the one who encouraged me to join because she was worried about me. This program brings forth the ability for me to remain in my home as long as possible. My daughter is also happy because she knows that somebody is always going to call me every single day to know that I’m here safe.”
To prevent first responders from breaking down a client’s door after calls have gone unanswered, the program gives people three options: leave a key with a neighbor, purchase a lockbox from the fire department for $185 or rent a lockbox from the program for a one-time fee of $25.
In the future, the program may begin reminding clients to take their medication. Those who sign up before the planned September testing period are set to receive the service free until October.
Afterward, the program will cost a one-time $35 fee and a $5 monthly fee, but the foundation is seeking grants that will offset this cost.
“It can be very difficult for seniors to admit that they need help, but in my opinion, this program saved a person’s life and has the potential to save more,” Duffel said.
To sign up, visit how-ru.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call 725-244-4200.
To reach North View reporter Sandy Lopez, email email@example.com or call 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.