By Katherine Schneider for the Chippewa Valley Post
A very reliable friend recently missed a bridge game. After several phone calls were unanswered, another friend drove by and found a light on, but nobody answered when she knocked. After some discussion, we decided to call the Eau Claire Police Department and ask them to do a “welfare check”.
Officer Mark first asked several questions to be sure intruding was really necessary. Then he and a fellow officer entered the house. The friend had fallen in the tub and had been there over a day. After a couple of days in a hospital, she went home fine.
Afterward, I asked the Eau Claire Police Department for guidance about when it is appropriate to ask for a “welfare check”. Kyle Roder, the department’s public information officer, said:
“Although (a) cliché, the primary roles of the Eau Claire Police Department really are to ‘protect and serve.’ Every day we receive requests from community members asking officers to check on suspicious vehicles, suspicious people or on friends or relatives who cannot be contacted.
” We encourage everyone to get to know their neighbors and have close connections in the community to watch out for one another; however, the Eau Claire Police Department is also always ready to help.”
Now that my friend is home, her next wise move was to get a wearable emergency alert system. Even though they cost about a dollar a day, they’re more useful than that cellphone in your pants pocket five feet away from the tub where you’ve fallen.
I hope my friend has blood and other tests done to look for the fall’s cause since it wasn’t her first fall. There can be many causes for falls, including such seemingly unconnected ones as low levels of vitamin D.
If you’re interested in trying to prevent a fall like this, the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Eau Claire County has lots of information and tips about how to stay safe and prevent falls as you age. They’ll do an in-home assessment to help you figure out how to modify your home to be elder-friendly.
They have a workshop every quarter on planning for care needs before they occur and have a loan closet of adaptive equipment. They also offer classes on fall prevention and exercising to stay strong. In addition to being good, they’re free! The ADRC can be reached at 715-839-4735.
For those of us who encounter the situation of not being able to locate a friend, especially an elderly friend living alone, the moral of this story is clear: do something! If the friend just went to Mexico and forgot to tell you, they’ll understand and if they’re lying there wishing they could get help, they’ll be glad you intervened. You could be their Bridge to Life.
Katherine Schneider is a retired clinical psychologist and writer. Follow her blog at http://kathiecomments.wordpress.com