By Colleen Harvot, Director of In Home Care, Valley VNA Senior Services

One of our core missions is to help seniors stay happy and healthy in their own homes. Our home care teams have many options for assisting people, from housekeeping help to daily (or more) visits for help with bathing and meal preparation. We even provide companionship activities, including card games, hobby projects or community outings.

Help a neighbor

Often it’s a next door neighbor, Meals on Wheels delivery volunteer or even a postal carrier who first discovers a senior may need more help. As a neighbor, you’ve probably noticed that seniors tend to have regular routines. Does the elderly gentleman next door always pick up his newspaper from the front stoop by 8 a.m.? Why is it still outside at noon? If lights-out is usually at 9 p.m., why are the lights still on at 11 p.m.? Could someone be sick or hurt? If your dog is uncharacteristically barking, has someone fallen out in the yard? (I cannot tell you how many stories I’ve heard about dogs helping raise the alarm.) When something seems a little off, it may be time to take a careful look outside, call your neighbor or knock on the door.

Here are some tips for staying vigilant, but not intrusive, when caring for your neighbor’s well-being:

1. Write down his or her full name and phone number. You can always call the house to check on your neighbor, and if everything is fine, just say hello.

2. Get a phone number for your neighbor’s closest friend or family member. This can be as easy as introducing yourself to her as she gets out of the car on a regular visit and saying, “If I’m ever concerned about your mom (or dad or aunt), it would be nice to have your number.” Offer your name and number, too.

3. If you are able, offer to help unload groceries, shovel snow or mow the lawn. This is a great opportunity for young people to pitch in and help an elder. Your kids will puff up with pride when they do a good job, and a short visit from a polite young person has the potential to make your neighbor’s day.

4. If your neighbor’s family decides to get him or her an alert bracelet or necklace, you might be asked to be a first contact person. If you feel comfortable with this responsibility, consider accepting the invitation. You will most likely get a key to your neighbor’s house, and the telephone service will call you if he or she presses the emergency button and needs assistance. These services vary, but if you cannot respond (because you are at work or out of town), the service will have other options for getting help.

5. Set boundaries. You are not completely responsible for your neighbor’s health and well-being, but your observations and helpful deeds can be an added layer of safety and interaction. Call family members if you need them to step in and always call 911 in an emergency. Our police department is responsive and compassionate when making wellness checks in our community.

We’ll be sharing more research and information on how to help seniors stay happy and healthy in their own homes, from social interaction and nutrition, to medication management and personal care. Family, neighbors and professional caregivers can work together to come up with a safe and consistent care plan. It’s good to remember we really do “get by with a little help from our friends.”

If you are interested in learning more about being a good neighbor or our In-Home Care services, contact us.

Did You Know? 

Did you know our Home Care clients are welcome at our special events offered to residents at Valley VNA? A game of Price is Right, a celebrity chef demonstration, or a little live music can really hit the spot. Ask about caregiver outings when you contact me.  Colleen Harvot, Director of In Home Care, 920-727-5555.