In 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau released a study drawn heavily from the 2010 census reflecting eleven million or twenty-eight percent of people aged 65 and older, lived alone. Seniors living alone can lead to social isolation, which can have a devastating impact on their health and well-being.
Social isolation can transpire once a senior enters retirement and therefore does not have the opportunity to be as active in society as they may wish. It must also be taken into account that as the elderly community continues to age; at some point, there can begin to be a lack of mobility, whether attributed to health problems or inability to drive. Each of these scenarios can create obstacles in social engagement and interaction with others.
Bereavement can be another risk factor for social isolation, as seniors who might have been married for many years suddenly find themselves alone. Additionally, according to AARP, more and more seniors do not have children meaning fewer family members to check in on them, provide care, and even companionship.
Lack of friends, family, or resources can create a wide gap in a senior’s ability to utilize adequate social support networks, which are vital for the well-being of the senior community. Consider as well that a vast majority of the elderly reported having one or more disabilities in 2010, with the most common difficulties being walking, climbing stairs, and doing errands alone.
Although there are great social programs such as senior centers, meals on wheels, and other supportive services, it is essential that seniors are aware and utilize as many resources as they can to assist with engagement activities but also and maybe even more importantly, securing a safety net.
Lafourche Parish Sheriff Office’s Social Services deputies hold a special place in their hearts for members of the senior community. In an effort to ensure their needs are being met, deputies often stop by senior centers and nursing homes throughout the parish to engage and visit with them.
To assist the elderly within the community on a greater level, LPSO social services department implemented the “Are You OK” program in 2007.
The program is a free telephone reassurance service designed to enhance the quality of life for older adults, or adults with disabilities, who live alone or who are at risk of sudden illness, falls, accidents, and/or social isolation. Currently, LPSO SSD has twenty-five participants enrolled.
Through the program, the Sheriff’s Office places a daily-automated call to each person enrolled at a specified time. If there is no answer or response, the sheriff's department will try two additional times, or if there is an emergency contact listed at the time of enrollment, they will call the alternate number. If there is still no response, LPSO dispatches a deputy is to the residence to ensure the person’s safety.
LPSO Lt. Brennan Matherne said, “In the twelve months spanning December 1, 2016 through November 30, 2017, we had fifty-two instances where an officer responded after receiving no answer.”
Lt. Matherne went on to recount a previous incident, which reflects the value of the program when he stated, “We had one instance where the female participant did not answer her call, her second party received the call which indicated she did not answer. The second party went to the home and discovered the female had fallen out of bed. Upon arrival of Acadian Ambulance Service, the paramedics discovered she had broken her hip. Due to the ‘Are You OK’ program, she was found quickly, and was transported to the hospital.”
Seniors have the option to receive calls between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., in the afternoon between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., or in the evening between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
For those interested in enrolling or for more information, parties can contact Deanna Dufrene with Police Social Services at 985-449-4477.
Posted on Fri, December 8, 2017
by Holly McKeon, Contributing Writer