Filling a propane tank for home heating cost $1,800 for a Rutherford County senior citizen on a fixed income last winter.
Fortunately, he paid the bill from his savings. Unfortunately, not all senior citizens have the savings to pay for unexpected bills.
That’s one reason the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office started the Senior Citizens Awareness Network to help senior citizens, said SCAN Coordinator Carroll Kyle.
SCAN won’t be able to pay the bills but hopefully will find volunteers willing to do home repairs or community agencies that can help with unforeseen expenses.
Volunteers will visit with seniors regularly and learn their needs. Eleven SCAN volunteers who agreed to donate at least 16 hours per month are now being trained in basic first aid, CPR and home security.
Registration is beginning for seniors to sign up for the SCAN services. Seniors, family members or friends may register a senior citizen or the SCAN program by leaving the name and telephone number at 904-3139. SCAN representatives will call or visit the proposed member and assess their necessities such as food, medicine, shelter, air and water and needs such as yards mowed, gutters fixed and windows repaired.
“We want to offer to let them know people care about them,” Kyle said. “Let them know they have a friend.”
Sheriff’s Sgt. Patty Hillis, who helped organize SCAN, said volunteers might help seniors register for food stamps.
“Our program is providing them the resources to assist them in living a better life,” Hillis said.
Kyle said SCAN provides volunteers matched with senior citizens over age 55 to address their individual needs such as home safety inspections and repairs. More volunteers are needed since there are about 25,000 Rutherford Countians over the age of 65.
“We’re looking for persons who want to help people and want to give something of themselves and their resources,” Kyle said.
Assistant Coordinator Peggy Earheart said with rising costs, many seniors must choose between medicine and food or paying bills. They may need home repairs such as eliminating mold but just don’t have the funds. A volunteer might have expertise in repairing the problem.
Kyle said the seniors may need a ride to a doctor’s office but don’t have anyone to take them.
“They might just need someone to check on them because they don’t have family members in the area,” Kyle noted.
SCAN volunteers will provide the ride or repairs. They will also relieve caregivers for a short time and check on patients from a doctor’s referral.
Earheart said SCAN could request the U.S. Postal Service move members’ mailboxes closer to their home.
Kyle and Earheart are networking through community groups such as Senior Connections to inform seniors about the SCAN services.
Hills, who is coordinating SCAN with fellow School Resource Officer John Acton, said SCAN volunteers will collect information about medical needs, services already provided and emergency contact information. They will be registered for regular visits and be notified in advance.
Once a senior and volunteers are matched, the volunteers will do a safety and security check for items such as smoke detectors, adequate locks and outside security lighting, the sergeant said. Volunteers will discuss crime prevention and crimes that specifically target seniors.
SCAN will network with community resources to obtain needed services such as Meals on Wheels.
The main resource of SCAN is the regular visits lasting about 15 minutes.
“Volunteers taking the time to sit and visit on a regular basis are the foundation of the program,” Hillis noted. “This single aspect keeps the senior connected to their community. Interaction with individuals outside their family proves to bring to their lives an understanding that their community is interested in their well-being.”
Besides the volunteers, SCAN needs financial donations to buy materials to repair homes. SCAN representatives will collect money at the annual Wilson County Fair. People who want to contribute may send donations to SCAN in care of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, 940 New Salem Highway, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 37129.
“It doesn’t have to be monetary,” Kyle added. “It can be labors of love.”