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Check-In Services That Can Help Seniors Stay Put

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Dear Savvy Senior,

Are there any services you know of that check in on elderly seniors who live alone. I worry about my 84-year-old father falling or having a medical emergency, and not being able to get to the phone to call for help. And he won't wear a lifeline help-button.

Desperate Daughter

Dear Desperate,

Depending on where your dad lives, there are check-in call services, volunteer visiting programs, and a variety of technology options you can turn to that can help you keep tabs on him. Here are several to check into.

Daily Check-in Calls

To make sure your dad is OK every day, consider signing him up with a daily check-in call service program. These are telephone reassurance programs run by police or sheriff's departments in hundreds of counties across the country and are usually provided free of charge.

Here's how they work. A computer automated phone system would call your dad at a designated time each day to check-in. If he answers, the system would assume everything is OK. But if he didn't pick up or if the call goes to voice mail after repeated tries, you (or whoever his designee is) would get a notification call. If you are not reachable, calls are then made to backup people who've also agreed to check on your dad if necessary.

The fallback is if no one can be reached, the police or other emergency services personnel will be dispatched to his home.

To find out if this service is available in your dad's community, call his local police department's nonemergency number.

If, however, the police or sheriff's department in your dad's community doesn't provide a daily check-in call program, there are a number of companies you can turn to that offer similar services offered directly to consumers for under $15 per month. Some to check into include the CARE senior calling program (Call-Reassurance.com), CareCheckers (CareCheckers.com) and IAmFine (Iamfine.com).

Volunteer Visiting Programs

Another option you may also want to investigate is volunteer visiting programs, which are usually run by churches, community groups, or social service agencies.

These programs provide volunteers who will visit an older adult in their home usually for an hour or two once a week, providing companionship as well as the reassurance that someone is checking in on a regular basis. They can also alert you if they notice your dad's health or living conditions start to decline.

To find out if these services are available, check with local churches or the area agency on aging near your dad - call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 for contact information.

Technology Solutions

Technology also offers a number of ways to help keep your dad safe at home, and help you keep an eye on him from afar. For example, for safety and peace of mind there are medical alert systems, which provide a wearable "help button" that would allow him to call for help anytime he needed it. Some of these systems (like Bay Alarm Medical, BayAlarmMedical.com) also offer wall-mounted buttons that can be placed near the floor in high fall risk areas like the bathroom or kitchen, if he didn't wear a help button.

And to help you keep daily tabs on your dad, there are wireless sensor-monitoring systems (like Silver Mother, Sen.se/silvermother) you could put in his home that will notify you if something out of the ordinary is happening; and video monitoring cameras (like the Nest Cam, Nest.com/camera) that have built-in motion and sound detection that will let you know when something is detected, and two-way audio that will let you talk and listen to him.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.

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