A caring call
According to Liberty Township police Chief Rich Tisone, it was the death of an elderly woman in 2008 that prompted the township to start a senior watch program.
“She had dementia and kept leaving the house at various times of the night,” Tisone said. “She had issues of memory loss and kept getting locked out of her house. She was found dead on her porch.
“We obviously needed a program that takes better care of the seniors in our community. That is how the program began,” Tisone said.
The Liberty senior watch program is modeled after one that was established in Brimfield Township in Portage County.
Patti Harjung, administrative assistant at the Brimfield Township Police Department, coordinates the Brimfield Township Senior Checkup Program. Harjung said that the program currently has 560 senior residents and about 350 households.
”The main reason we started the Brimfield Township Senior Checkup Program was so that we could have residents’ emergency contact information,” Harjung said. “If there was any emergency that happened in their home, we would notify that person’s emergency contact,” she said.
Harjung said that the Brimfield Township Police Officers will call the seniors who are in the program periodically to check up on them and will visit their homes occasionally as well.
This is a key part of the Liberty program.
Marcy Orlando, Liberty police secretary, and Liberty Township Fire Department secretary Roberta Martin make daily calls to check up on seniors in the community.
“We set up a time with a senior to call them each day,” Orlando said. “We are either contacted by a senior who is interested in the program or a family member of the senior loved one. In some cases, the police or fire department is called to a senior resident’s home for an emergency situation and they might suggest or think the senior should be in our program.”
Orlando said seniors are not obligated to be in the program, but it’s a comfort for many older Liberty Township residents.
“A lot of the seniors in our community like someone to check up on them,”?Orlando said. “We will call as much as the senior resident wants us to call. You learn a lot about these people.”
“It makes me feel good when I talk to them,” Martin said. “I believe there are more people who should be on our call list.”
“Roberta and I get to know the seniors on our call list, and we know which residents need to be checked on sooner,” Orlando said. “A lot of our seniors are alone, and they wait for our call because they feel safe when someone is checking up on them.”
“It is scary when you call them and they do not answer,” Martin said. “If they do not answer, I give them 45 minutes to an hour. If the person is prone to falling, or has a heart or other serious health condition, I don’t wait that long.”
Weathersfield Township also has a senior watch program available for residents.
“When we started the program, the trustees thought it would be a good program for seniors living in the township,” said Joseph P. Consiglio, Weathersfield chief of police. “We talked to different agencies that had senior watch programs throughout the state. One of the communities we talked to was Liberty Township.”
Consiglio said that seniors have to fill out an application to be included in the Weathersfield Township Senior Citizen Watch Program, and the frequency of calls to seniors depends on the individual’s condition.
“If we have an individual who is 90 years old and who is not healthy, we will call the home more often,” Consiglio said. “Mostly, we will call our seniors three, two or sometimes once a week.”
Ken Heim, outreach worker at the Trumbull County Commissioners’ Office of Elderly Affairs, has visited 1,500 homes of seniors in Trumbull County.
“For everyone who gets our home-delivered meals, I go out to their homes and assess what other services the senior clients need,” Heim said.
Heim said that some examples of these of these additional services include home chore services, transportation, personal care services, outside services such as snow removal or lawn services, and shopping services.
“Sometimes seniors feel that they are a bother to their families and they do not want to admit that they need help,” Heim said. “Family members of my senior clients have told me that I and the Trumbull County Commissioners’ Office of Elderly Affairs have given them peace of mind, because there is someone watching their loved one five days a week.”