Tag Archives: elderly home safety

Safe Aging at Home Tip: Elderly Should Beware Strangers in Uniform

Are you or your aging parents letting thieves who scam seniors in through the front door?

The elderly are ideal targets for scammers because they tend to be more trusting — especially if someone shows up at their front door wearing a uniform. Older adults who live alone, or who have begun to show signs of impaired judgement or memory are even more likely to be manipulated or intimidated.

Three recent news stories illustrate just how often seniors are opening their front doors to thieves posing as construction and utility workers, police officers, and even home health aids.

In Spartanberg County, SC, the sheriff is looking for a group of thieves who have been posing as construction workers to distract and burglarize unsuspecting seniors….

In the most recent incident… the men asked an 87-year-old Inman woman about construction “stobs,” or stakes in the ground. The woman went outside and spoke to several men, who said there was a new phone line going in around the area, an incident report said.

The woman told the men she would have to talk to her daughter and when she returned to her house, she found that the door had damaged around the knob. She asked the men to stay outside but the men pushed by her and went inside, the report said.

The men asked her where her money and prescription medication were, and they roamed her home for about 10 minutes, the report said. They later took her cell phone and ripped her phone line out of the wall before leaving. After the men left, the woman went to a neighbor’s home to call police.

Read the full story here

In Michigan, Grand Rapids police reported that a woman has been approaching seniors claiming to be a police officer to gain access to their homes…

…a 72-year-old resident walking in his neighborhood near Lake Michigan Drive NW and Collingdale avenue was approached by a woman identifying herself as a police officer and then talked her way into his house after showing a badge.

While in the house, the woman asked the intended victim about his finances and whether there was money in the home. The woman claimed she was investigating a “counterfeit ring” and said the resident matched the description. The woman got into an old white station wagon driven by someone else and took off, according to police.

Read the full story here

And in Delaware County, Penn., an elderly couple was victimized by a young woman wearing hospital scrubs who claimed she worked for the Delaware County Office of Services for the Aging…

The woman told the elderly man that she was there to check on his wife, who is confined to a bed because of medical issues, police said. The man let the woman inside and she spoke to his wife about her medical issues. After a few minutes, she left the home.

A short time later, the woman returned telling the man that her car had broken down and asked to use the phone. The man allowed her inside again, but this time the woman ran into the wife’s bedroom, went immediately to a bedside table and took a number of items, including cash and a check book. She ran back out the front door before the man could stop her. The suspect’s car was heard driving away toward Washington Street, police said.

Read the full story here

How can you tell if the person ringing your bell really works for the utility company or the police? The following safe aging at home tips can help protect yourself or your aging parents the next time a wolf in sheep’s clothing comes a knockin’ at the front door:

• Don’t open the door! You are not being rude. This is a matter of security, not manners. Whatever needs to be said can be said with you safely inside. Never allow someone you don’t know or trust to literally “get a foot” in your door.

• Beware bogus utility worker scam teams working in pairs. One thief distracts their elderly victim by convincing them to go outside to the backyard or into the basement. Meanwhile, the other thief sneaks in the front door, or pretends to go the bathroom, or to check the gas appliances for leaks. While you are busy outside, the second scammer is stealing any valuables he or she can find.

• Look for a marked utility vehicle with your local utility company’s logo in front of your house or in your driveway.  No sign of a properly marked utility vehicle is a red flag. So are unmarked utility trucks or personal vehicles with “peel off” magnetic signs.

• Don’t be fooled by what appears to be a uniform or an identification badge. Generic uniforms can be made to look official with the right patches. Besides, would you know how to tell a genuine utility worker ID or a police badge from a fake?

• Confirm any letters, door hangers, or phone calls from a utility company that say workers will be in your neighborhood or will need access to your home. Important: Look up the number in a phone book or online AND CALL THE UTILITY COMPANY YOURSELF.

Increasingly, sophisticated scammers who want to put skeptical victims at ease are giving advanced notice that someone will knock at your door — just like real utility companies. The notice may be on utility company letterhead, but the “confirmation number” may be answered by one of the scammers or a bogus recorded message. For the same reason…

• Verify any unexpected visits from utility workers or the police by calling the utility company or the police station yourself. Do not let the person on the other side of your front door give you a number to speak with their “supervisor.” Do not let them have someone call you from the utility company or the station, or dial a number for you on their cell phone. And never, ever let anyone in your home to use your phone.

• If the stranger in uniform at your door says it’s an emergency or you have even the slightest doubt that something isn’t right, call 911. The police take calls about people impersonating cops very seriously. If the gas or electric utility workers are for real, they will have no problems waiting for the police to verify their identity. And the police take calls about people impersonating cops very seriously.

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Tech Lab Working to Make Caring for Aging Parents Easier

Concerned about caring for your aging parents? Here’s some good news: Tomorrow’s aging at home technology will make today’s medical alert buttons look like rotary dial phones from 1955.

Wireless motion sensors that monitor your aging parent as they walk around the house, lay in bed, and use the bathroom. Computer-based word and memory games that help a remote healthcare professional monitor brain function and motor skills for warning signs of impairment. An electronic pill dispenser that tracks when medication is taken and signals when to take it.

It’s the future of aging at home — and it’s being developed now by major corporations who want a piece of the enormous market for technology that makes it easier and safer for aging baby boomers to age in place as long as possible.

In an excellent Los Angeles Times article, writer Walter Hamilton details the extensive research conducted in the homes of 480 elderly in Portland, Ore., to field test these new technologies. The studies are being run by the Oregon Center for Aging & Technology at Oregon Health & Science University and funded, in part, by Intel and General Electric.

…Rutherford’s two-bedroom condominium has been outfitted with an array of electronic monitoring gear that might eventually find its way to retail shelves — all of it light years away from those rudimentary medical-alert necklaces advertised in an endless loop of TV commercials.

Motion sensors along hallways and ceilings record her gait and walking speed. A monitor on her back door observes when she leaves the house, and another one on the refrigerator keeps tabs on how often she’s eating.

A few months ago, the former waitress even tested a robot with a Skype-like video monitor that lets faraway relatives check on loved ones.

Rutherford’s granddaughter Katie Cooper piloted “Celia” from home in rural Wyoming, steering the machine — shaped like a 4-foot paper clip on wheels — around Rutherford’s house as they spoke.

At first, Cooper struggled to control Celia, bumping the robot into tables and running over a shopping bag. But she got the hang of it quickly.

“My grandmother’s furniture hasn’t changed in 20 years. I knew the layout of the house,” she said. “Anybody who’s ever played a video game would have no problem using this.”

The equipment in Rutherford’s home is monitored by researchers at the Oregon lab, which was established in 2004 and developed most of the gear.

The lab includes a “model home” to test new gadgets. One is a special bed laced with sensors to assess breathing patterns, heart rate and general sleep quality. If someone lying on the bed holds a breath for a few seconds, the computer monitor flashes “subject has stopped breathing.”

A pill box fitted with electronic switches records when medication is taken. And a Wii video game system has been rejiggered so that players stand on a platform that measures their weight and balance.

More is on the drawing board at the Oregon tech lab and elsewhere: software to help dementia patients find their way home if they get lost, devices that interpret facial expressions for signs of depression and robotic “pets” that have lifelike interactions with seniors.

Read the full article

Experts are cautiously optimistic about this new generation of safety and healthcare monitoring technology.

The technology is appealing for health insurers and Medicare hawks because it is seen as a way to reduce or control skyrocketing healthcare costs. Compared to an in-office visit, it’s a lot less expensive to monitor basic bodily functions like blood pressure if you can get an elderly person to put their arm in a cuff that’s connected to a computer. And remote monitoring can be conducted by technicians who make considerably less per hour than a physician’s assistant or registered nurse.

More advanced monitoring technology also promises to bring additional peace of mind to the adult children of aging parents — many of whom are caring for aging parents while trying to raise and support their own families.

But there is serious concern that the new aging at home technology may also isolate elderly adults, especially if they are predisposed to staying at home in the first place. Social interaction with family and friends is critical for mental health and healthy aging. No sensor can anticipate or prevent every health or safety problem. And tracking mom as she moves around her home is no substitute for visiting in person and often.

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Aging at Home Safety Tip: Beware Door-to-Door Distraction Scams

Every spring, there is a noticeable uptick in the number of door-to-door “distraction burglaries” targeting the elderly. Many involve home improvement services, such as tree-trimming, driveway paving, roofing, and — as 75-year old Carol Krzywiec of West Covina, Calif., discovered — plumbing…

The man arrived at her door about 9:30 a.m. and said he had been working with a crew on a nearby water main and needed to check Krzywiec’s water supply for contamination…As the man went to supposedly check on the water fixtures, Krzywiec said she spotted from the corner of her eye a second man dart in her front door….

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When the victim questioned the bogus water company employee about the other man, she was told he was a “helper.” That was no lie. While “Rocko” (That’s the name the scammer gave Krzywiec) stalled, the second man flushed toilets and helped himself to $200 cash.

All the while, Rocko kept his victim busy. At one point he pulled out a $100 bill, claimed Krzywiec had overpaid the water company, and asked if she could make change. When Krzywiec said no, Rocko and his partner in crime hurried to finish their fake inspection and bolted.

Why bother with the $100 bill? Krzywiec believes it was to figure out where she kept her money when she went for change.

A classic distraction scam. One thief keeps an elderly victim busy while another quickly searches likely places for cash and valuables. Sometimes the distraction takes place inside. Sometimes the goal is to get the victim out of the house.

What’s the best way to yourself or an aging parent from a door-to-door distraction scam?

1. Don’t open the door! Most utility workers don’t just show up unannounced. You’re not being rude. You’re being smart by staying safe.

2. Don’t confirm a visitor’s identity by calling the number they give you! It’s way too easy to arrange for another scammer to answer your call and support the deception. Instead, take the time to look up the number and call yourself.

3. Never let an unknown visitor badger or bully you into letting them in. If they claim there is an emergency, call 911 to confirm. If 911 says there is no emergency in your area, ask 911 to connect you to the police.

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Home Modifications Help Elderly Age at Home Safely

If you’d like to grow old at home, you’re not alone. Most older adults want to live independently for as long as possible. The problem is that most homes aren’t set up to keep older adults safe as they age.

Research by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that home modification and repairs may prevent 30-50% of all home accidents among seniors, including falls.

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Need to make your home safer for yourself or an aging parent? Check out these FAQs from the National Resource Center for Supportive Housing and Home Modifications.

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Bathroom Safety Makeover Tips for Older Adults

Want to age at home safely? It’s time for a bathroom SAFETY makeover. The bathroom is one of the top locations for serious falls among older adults — the kind of accidents that make it much more difficult for independent-minded seniors to continue living independently.

Along with adding grab bars to the shower or tub, replace that old shower valve with a new “scald-proof” model…

Scalding is one of the most serious bath injuries and can be avoided by one of the pressure and temperature-balanced shower valves available today. You’ll render the flush toilet/scorch bather syndrome obsolete, so everyone wins.

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For more bathroom safety makeover tips for older adults, check out this excellent article from Certified Aging in Place Specialist Jamie Goldberg.

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