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Color me shocked but not surprised at the news headline from my old home town. According to the article, a man and woman rang the bell at the door of the elderly gentleman, who lives in a normally safe neighborhood. They asked if there were any jobs they could do around his house, telling him they were hungry and needed the money for food. Once inside, they asked to use the man's bathroom. The woman then asked the man to go with her to look at a tree in the man's front yard, and she walked outside with the elderly man to look at it, while her companion remained inside. After the couple left, the owner discovered that his wallet had been taken from the living room. As to be expected, the wallet contained the man's ID, credit cards, and some money.
As a member of the never-aging Baby Boomers generation caring for elderly parents, why am I not surprised? While this happened recently, the exact same thing happened to three of my neighbors in another city, and in another safe neighborhood, 25 years ago! In one case, the neighbor was hit on her head, but otherwise unhurt. In the other two cases, two different criminals tortured the owners of each house, leaving some dead and the rest badly injured. Five years ago, one burglar targeted a senior-specific neighborhood. It, too, was a safe neighborhood. Sadly, safe neighborhoods are no guarantee for our beloved aging parents’ safety!
I’m not sharing all these sad stories to scare you. Crime happens everywhere. But God is more powerful than bad guys, and I’m going to trust Him instead of worrying, and encourage you to do the same. At the same time, this is a good reminder that safety does need to be an important issue in senior home care. Fortunately there are ways we can be proactive in helping those whose elderly care we help oversee.
I personally think that discussing these kinds of situations with our elderly parents on a regular basis is one of the best protections. We need to do it gently so they don’t get overly scared but often enough that they remember the information. If you regularly discuss the different scams out there, and talk about what to do if something like that should happen, they will be more prepared if they do find themselves in such a situation. My parents and I have been doing this on a regular basis for years. My senior mom is great about being careful about what kind of information she gives on the phone, and I can tell some of that carefulness comes from our discussions.
Since this is the time of year when scams seem to happen more often, many cities offer senior citizen seminars to teach them what to watch for and how to deal with problem situations, along with giving them plenty of contact information for the police, senior assistance groups, and other useful agencies. Neighborhood Watch groups can be an excellent resource as well. If you don’t live near your aging parent, it would be a good idea to encourage them to watch for and attend a meeting of this type. If you do live close by, I would encourage you to take them to the meeting, and go out for a sweet treat afterwards. You’ll all enjoy the time together and it’ll be a great opportunity to discuss the issue yet again.
A medical alert system using a device such as an emergency pendant or wristwatch could have actually helped in each of these situations, although you would need to discuss with your aging parent the need to be cautious in using it in a situation like this. A voice suddenly emanating from their necklace or bracelet could scare off the bad guy, or cause him to go on the offensive.
In addition to a medical alert device such as an emergency pendant, a good house alarm can be very beneficial to your senior parent but it probably needs to be very simple, and they need to practice with it quite a bit. Setting off their alarm on a routine basis will lead to it being less than useless in a true emergency. We used to have one of those burglar alarm systems that had a panic button. If this had been available for the senior gentleman, and he was comfortable using it, he could have just casually pressed the button if he started getting worried. For that matter, having the alarm sign in the front yard to let criminals know you have a house alarm can sometimes be a good deterrent, along with having an active Neighborhood Watch group.
These are just some of the ways we in the Sandwich Generation can help provide good senior home care to our beloved parents. Have you looked into medical alert devices? What other ways have you found to help prepare and protect your aging parents?
P.S. Two great resources, with excellent Better Business Bureau ratings, include the Philips Lifeline auto medical alert systems with auto fall detection and Lifestation personal emergency medical alert systems for the elderly.