The 'Stay at Home with Assistance' program which focuses on helping older adults remain under self-care in their own homes longer, has returned to the De Pere community after being put on pause during the pandemic. This free resource is for anyone who lives in the city and is looking to continue to live safely at home on their own. This service provides insight, fire safety prevention tips and education for the individual's specific needs within their home. People taking part in the program can learn ways to prevent an in-home accident or fall potentially saving thousands of dollars. In past years, the Emergency Department has had nearly 200 admissions resulting from falls from De Pere residents who are 65 and older. The total cost billed for those ER visits and inpatient stays alone cost more than $3 million dollars.
"The idea is that the fire department typically gets involved with residents after an incident has already happened and this is our way to get ahead of someone getting hurt," said Fire Chief Alan Matzke with De Pere Fire Rescue. "If we can make sure a piece of furniture is secure or reduce the risk of a fall by eliminating a trip hazard and prevent them from getting hurt in the first place, we can help people continue to maintain their independence and live the way they want to live."
How it works is a representative with the De Pere Fire Department and the De Pere Public Health Department will come into your home and assess the space. They'll look for ways to improve the safety of the area and go over those ideas with you as well as answer any questions. They'll specifically be looking for issues such as potential tripping risks which could lead to a fall or for fire hazards such as too many cords in an outlet.
"Sometimes adding guardrails or assisting devices, less extension cords and more lighting can make a huge difference and we can keep people living in their home where they feel the safest; where they feel the most comfortable, in their happy place," said Ron Cody, a Firefighter and Paramedic with the De Pere Fire Rescue Department. Program organizers say it's also helpful if family members would like to be involved. "As we get older we develop our patterns and our habits and we can sometimes be reluctant to change them but sometimes with the guidance of your family, we can work together to create a safer environment," added Cody.
Organizers say that homeowners don't always make all of the recommended changes and that's okay. They continue to work with residents to help them stay safe and healthy. The program can even connect them with resources to other local organizations through referrals thanks to partnerships in the community.
"We have a lot of partnerships in the community," explained Debbie Armbruster, Health Officer and Director for the De Pere Health Department. "We can connect people with resources such as the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Green Bay. We know there are a lot of programs that can help older adults get stronger and be more agile and that can really help in case of a fall."
When it comes to fire safety and prevention, a representative with De Pere Fire Rescue will focus on checking the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms for you. If they're defective, they will replace them free of charge. The De Pere Fire Department found that more than 75% of senior citizens who die in fires do not have working smoke alarms. By performing these potentially life-saving, in-home safety assessments, program organizers can help elderly homeowners live healthy and happily in their own home longer. For more information on this program and other services offered in De Pere, give the De Pere Health Department a call at 920-339-4054.