ALONE, PART TWO
Kids are not the only ones "home alone" these days. There are thousands of northwest area residents of all ages who are experiencing living on their own -- some perhaps for the first time. There are many young adults who have left the nest, are out on their own for the first time and are living independently. Many of these new "single" residents have relocated after a divorce, and some are retired, moving to be near adult children and other family members. Some are elderly, living alone for the first time in their adult lives after the death of their spouse.
These residents may have several things in common: they may not know anyone living nearby; they may never have lived alone before; they may never have lived in an apartment before; and they may be used to relying on others ( a spouse or parents) to take care of things like security and safety issues. And, perhaps most importantly, these new single residents may not be familiar with basic measures to protect themselves or know what to do in the event of an emergency requiring fire, law enforcement or medical assistance.
Many older residents have special needs including health and mobility problems and may be especially anxious about what would happen if an emergency occurred.
Seniors living alone must develop new coping skills for accessing the things and services they want and need while remaining as independent as they would like.
There have been many changes in our community over the past decade, and a team of emergency services personnel have joined forces to provide some very real assistance in the form of a free seminar program to help them live alone with confidence. The new program, SAFE & SECURE, will be conducted on two levels -- one for middle school youngsters who are on their own before or after school, and adults who are new to independent living. The student program will be kicked off as a pilot effort with Spring ISD input and assistance, and the adult program will be offered through the many new apartment complexes in our area. Each program will be age- and
The concept of safety in today’s complicated society involves a whole lot more than just locking a door. Each of the three professionals -- trained representatives from Harris County Sheriff’s Department, Ponderosa Volunteer Fire Department, and Cypress Creek EMS -- will address some safety concerns. The Sheriff’s Deputy will provide advice about how to protect yourself and your property from would-be criminals or intruders. The firefighter will discuss what to do in the event of a fire and how to get out alive, and the emergency medical representative will focus on how 9-1-1 works, CPR and first aid.
The version of the program developed to help so-called "Latch Key Kids" will be aimed at youngsters in the 6th through 8th grades; an age group which is characteristically anxious to prove their independence who coincidentally often have an inflated opinion of their ability to cope in just about any situation. Confidence is great, but the program aims to replace a false sense of security with a realistic appreciation for dangers they could face on their own.
LATCH KEY KIDS...
The student version of SAFE & SECURE therefore contains segments on learning to define a true emergency; when to call 9-1-1 and what to expect when they do; creating escape routes; who are strangers and what do they want; saying NO to drugs, cigarettes and alcohol; to and from school rules;
house and phone safety; and avoiding danger on the internet. In addition to first aid and CPR information, the medics will also share information on how to handle a range of emergencies including choking, falls and accidents, bike, pedestrian and water safety. (CCEMS also conducts Bike Rodeos for local groups upon request.)
The firefighter will discuss what happens when there’s a fire at home; how to escape and avoid injury; dealing with heavy smoke; and how to prevent a fire emergency at home in the first place.
Whether you are 26 or 66, the fear of falling or other injury while you’re alone and not being able to get to a phone to call for help is the fabric of nightmares. And fear can be especially debilitating for seniors. Focusing on the negative ("What would happen if I fell...") can make an elderly person so afraid that they begin to resist doing anything at all. Self imposed isolation can make their existence especially lonely, and the lack of exercise and personal interaction can bring on a decline in health.
The SAFE & SECURE sponsors are sensitive to these kinds of issues, and have structured the adult program to be informative but not preachy, and to help those living alone learn how to keep their apartment or home secure (inexpensive measures for locking and securing property); how to prevent spills and falls; how to plan an escape route in the event of fire in the complex but not in their unit; and how to help EMS crews if they do experience a medical emergency and call 9-1-1 for assistance. Adults, too, need to be reminded how to prevent kitchen fires and what to do in this kind of emergency.
Unfortunately, personal security concerns arise in situations away from home, too. There have been car jackings, and "follow home" crooks who accost their victims after observing them at malls, grocery stores and other public parking lots. The law enforcement representatives will address these situations and personal protection issues, as well.
There is a wealth of information on these personal safety topics, and the sponsors will be collecting materials to share or distribute. Each department will have hand-outs and special literature for those who attend the program. In addition, they will have smoke alarms, small fire extinguishers, first aid kits, information about "panic buttons" and other security aids, and perhaps information from insurance companies who provide security kits or materials, as well.