OKEECHOBEE — Last week we ran a disturbing story about an elderly man who fell in his home, and lay there for five days before being discovered by his mail carrier, who noticed he hadn’t picked up his mail and contacted a neighbor to go check on him. He was severely dehydrated when found and spent several days in the hospital.
The State of Florida has the highest percentage of senior citizens living within its borders, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 28% of senior citizens live alone. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office decided about 14 years ago to offer a service called Senior Check to local citizens.
According to Cpl. Jack Nash, community relations specialist, the program slacked off, but one of the main goals of Sheriff Noel E. Stephen’s administration has been to update some of their programs, and although it had been continuing, it didn’t have the full-fledged support that Sheriff Stephen wanted to give to it. They have revitalized it and updated a few things, and now the C.O.P.s (Citizens On Patrol) are maintaining the program.
The way it works, he explained, is people can either sign themselves up or someone can sign a relative up for the service, and the C.O.P.s will either call or go by the person’s home on a regular basis to check on them. They develop a relationship with the person, he explained. That way if they are going to the doctor the next day, they won’t call during that time. If someone is sick in bed, sometimes they drop by to check on them. These checks are called “R.U.OK” checks, he said. If they call a couple of times and no one answers, they would send someone, either a C.O.P. or a deputy, out to check on them.
There have been several incidents over the last few years where the program has helped someone, he said. The most recent was several months ago, when a person fell inside his home after they had already done the check, and they went back out to check on the person and helped him off of the floor. So that person was not on the floor long thanks to the program.
At this time they have about 17 people on their list. If anyone would like to be added, they can call Cpl. Nash at 863-763-3117, ext. 5018, or they can call the C.O.P. office number at 863-763-6064, and the best time to reach them is Monday morning.