Protecting Grandma's Safety

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Elderly Safety: Home Alone

My great grandmother is spending her first few days alone at home and she's terrified. Her biggest fear is that she'll fall and will have no one to help her. We cannot afford private care. Is there any other way to ensure her peace of mind as well as her safety? We so very much appreciate any suggestions you could give.
Thank you.
Worried about Granny

Elderly Safety: Work Out a Visiting Schedule

Depending on your budget, the location of your elderly relative, and the number of nearby relatives, you have several options that are less expensive than a visiting nurse or assisted living, assuming that your relative doesn't need that much care.

One option for your grandmother is to make sure someone comes over every day. Start by scheduling relatives. Can they make one day a week their way to and from work? Does her church offer a visiting service and can they add her to the schedule? If you can't get a consistent schedule built up among loved ones and volunteers, consider paying a teenager, neighbor, or cleaning service to stop by for a half-hour or so a day just to make sure that she is safe.

A more independent person might not want a daily visitor. One elderly friend uses a service called Lifeline, She wears a "panic button" that she can push if she falls or gets hurt, so that she's not in danger even though she's often home alone. There is a fee for the service, but it is less expensive than nursing for someone who is capable but frail.

Elderly Safety: Set Up a Circle of Friends

My mom and her friends have come up with a good plan for all of them. There are six or seven friends, most are elderly or disabled. They do this round robin thing. One makes a call to one of them. Then they call the next person and so on to see how they are doing in the morning. They do this again in the afternoon. If they are going to be out and about or gone on vacation or whatever reason they aren't going to be there, they let their person that calls them know. They mostly check on each other in the morning. If someone is not feeling well or sick, then they call again, in the afternoon or even sooner. If one of them is not answering their phone, then they go check on that person or they call the person that is mobile and lives the closest to that person to go over to their house.

They all get together often, but at least once a month they have a potluck. They have it at this campground trailer park in their community. They invite the fire department and police officers to their potlucks. This way, they are familiar with the community people, too. The fire department supervisor had to tell his employees that only two or three on duty could go, because he couldn't have them all at the potluck!

Anyway, this isn't exactly the kind of solution this person was probably looking for. I know it gives me comfort that my mom and her friends are watching out for each other. A couple of my mom's friends have my telephone number and address, so if anything comes up or if they have concerns about my mom, they can contact family.

Elderly Safety: Check Out Hospital Emergency Devices

Most hospitals have places where you can get an emergency button for people to wear around their neck. If something happens, the wearer pushes the button and a check-up system goes into force such as calls to the home, an assigned check-up person, and police or emergency people. The cost is fairly cheap for safe state of mind. They are very understanding about mistakes or accidental pushes.

Elderly Safety: Security Company Comes Through

Friends of ours went to a security company and bought a medical alert necklace, which they then tied into the security company. As long as the necklace was in easy reach at all times, neither the family nor the grandmother worried much for her safety. Several times she was in need (had fallen), pushed the button and when the security company tried to reach her by phone and failed, they called a family member who lived close by who went to check on her. If family wasn't close, a trusted neighbor was then called, and failing that, an ambulance was dispatched. I don't remember the cost of the necklace, but the monitoring service wasn't more than $35 per month. For peace of mind and 24-hour service, it wasn't a bad deal.

Elderly Safety: Security Company Quickens the Response Time

Granny needs to be wearing a medi-alert device; something ON her body at all times so no matter where she might fall, she can push the button to call for emergency assistance. Many people wear these devices as a 'necklace', others on a wristband. I do not recommend putting it in your pocket as sometimes as you bend/sit the device in your pocket could accidentally be activated.

My medi-alert device is linked to my home security system. While it can cost a couple hundred for the initial installation services and equipment, the monthly maintenance fee is about $40. In addition to wearing the medi-alert device, my emergency instructions include two contact people who have the key to my unit. Thus, if an emergency call is received, after contacting the EMTs they then will attempt to reach either person for the key to my unit. Without such an arrangement valuable time could be wasted if the EMTs in turn have to call for assistance to break in my door.

Elderly Safety: Check Out Community Services

There are companies who provide medical alert type devices that Granny can wear like a necklace. Pressing a button will activate a series of calls for help from a list of people you provide (neighbor, relative, ambulance, etc.) There is a monthly fee that varies with the services provided. Sources for these devices can be found from local hospitals, doctor's offices, Senior Services, Department on Aging, and organizations such as the Family Caregiver Alliance.

Elderly Safety: A Cell Phone Would Help

Get your Grandmother a cell phone. One of these little ones she can keep right with her anywhere she goes. Program in your number or the number of the closest family or friend to her so she only has to push a button to call out. Then set up a schedule where someone calls her at least once a day to check on her. Morning and night would be nice. For about $19.00 a month she can be in touch in a moment.

Updated September 2013

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