Aging Services offered by The Montgomery County (MD) Police

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Patricia Dubroof:

Good morning. This is Patricia Dubroof. I’m here from Assisting Hands Home Care Potomac, and I am filling in for Steve Lorberbaum today, but he sends his best. And I just wanted to tell you a little bit about Assisting Hands Home Care. Steve and Kathy started Assisting Hand Home Care about seven years ago, and they are committed to bringing educational resources and information to the community to help folks age well in Montgomery county. And to that end, we started this program, What’s Your Plan, speaking to community members about how to age well in Montgomery county. And today we’re going to focus on safety for our seniors, and we are very happy to host. It looks like three Montgomery county police officers, and I’ll let you introduce yourselves.

Katie Beard:

Hello there. Good morning. My name is Katie Beard. I am the Community Service Officer for the fourth district. So I cover all of Leisure World. This morning, we’re going to talk a little bit about safety, safety in your car, safety in your home. And we’ll also talk about another topic when a loved one is deceased in the home and what should you do.

Katie Beard:

So the first one we’ll talk about a little bit is safety. So for me, I keep my front door locked even when I’m home. It prevents somebody from walking through my front door, which has occurred in Leisure World. It also prevents me from having to deal with somebody with who I don’t necessarily want to interact. So sometimes you have knocked at the door late at night. My door is shut and locked. It prevents any interaction and it prevents me from getting into a situation that I don’t want to be in.

Patricia Dubroof:

So Katie, when somebody knocks on your door late at night, what should you do?

Katie Beard:

It depends on what kind of door you have. Do you have a Ring doorbell that you can see the person? Do you have a peephole that you could see the person? Or do you not have anything? I don’t have anything. So I yell through the door, “Who is it?” If I don’t get a response, I don’t open the door. If it’s somebody I don’t want to speak to, I let them know, “Look, it’s a little too late for me. I’m not opening the door. Please come back another time.” Or if it’s somebody I want to speak to, or it’s a neighbor or something like that, then, of course, I’m going to open the door and I’m going to crack it first to make sure they are who they say they are before I open it all the way.

Patricia Dubroof:

So I think the important part here is just to be asking first, who is it? And what brings you to my door at this late hour? And I think that’s really important. So please don’t open your door to strangers. Don’t open your door if it’s late and you’re not comfortable. And as a backup, if you’re not comfortable, you can call 911.

Katie Beard:

Exactly. And a lot of my friends during the day like to be outside, they like to be out on their back patio, they like to be gardening, sitting in the sun outback, and a lot of them will leave their front door open or unlocked. Well, we have certainly a number of burglars who come in through the front door, take what they want, and leave again through the front door and the person sitting out back never even knew they were there until they go to look for their belongings that they need and they can’t find them. So that’s another reason to keep your front door locked while you are home, as well as your windows.

Katie Beard:

I like to open my windows during the spring and the fall. It’s really nice out, but I only open the windows on my upper level. I don’t open the windows on my lower level, because I don’t want to get into a situation that I don’t want to have to deal with. So I also don’t want to forget, not closing them if I go out or if I’m going shopping or grocery shopping, or if I’m going to go out for a walk. I don’t want to leave those bottom windows open because it’s a lot more accessible into your home than it is if you were going to leave your bedroom window open, or something on an upper level where it would be more difficult for them to get to.

Patricia Dubroof:

So especially now that we’ve been all experiencing living with COVID challenges, it’s nice to have windows open. So maybe there’s an opportunity here to maybe make a sticky note on the door and say close the windows before you leave. Because I think a lot more people have had windows open for that very reason. So thank you for all that. I’d also like to introduce Officer Tara Bond.

Tara Bond:

Thank you and good morning, I’m Tara Bond. I’ve been with Montgomery County police, this is going on my 16th year, and I’m currently a community services officer in the Rockville district, just like Officer Katie Beard is in the fourth district. And then I split my time and I’m also the co-coordinator of, and it’s a long title, but it’s of our Autism, IDD, for Intellectual Developmental Disabilities, Alzheimer’s, Dementia Outreach Unit. And I work with Officer Lori Reyes there. So do you want to go into a little bit more about what our program does, and once I’m done, we also have Officer Michelle Smith joining us today.

Patricia Dubroof:

I saw that and she’s incognito as Anna. I love that. The things we do on Zoom, right? We can change our name, we can change our look. So Tara, tell us a little bit more about how this program became important in this community. Where does it fit in terms of the DMVs area? Why did this unit get formed?

Tara Bond:

Okay, so this unit started in 2004 and it was in response to calls for service where people were critically missing at risk. So individuals with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia, unfortunately, sometimes have a propensity to wander or elope from their home, day program, or if they’re out and about in the community. And when we’re talking about elopement, we’re not talking about going to Vegas and getting married. This is a very common term with individuals with autism, IDD Alzheimer’s, and dementia.

Tara Bond:

We actually average three to eight calls a week for individuals that go missing. So we quickly realized that we needed to be proactive as opposed to reactive. So Officer Reyes is the main coordinator. She started this program and she quickly realized that we needed to do more than just respond to calls for service for individuals that have gone missing due to that propensity. So we have a total approach to keeping individuals safe through education, community outreach, follow-up, response, and empowerment.

Tara Bond:

And so we work with the family members and the individuals to make sure that we’re hoping to do all that we can do to ensure that individual’s safety. So if you have a loved one that’s got a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s, and you hear those two interchangeably, because Alzheimer’s is one of the most common forms of dementia. But if you have someone that you’re caring for and they’ve gone missing, we want you to know you’re not alone into please call 911 right away so that we can get resources to the point last seen as soon as possible and reunite you with your client or your loved one.

Patricia Dubroof:

I’m sorry.

Tara Bond:

Go ahead.

Patricia Dubroof:

So if somebody identifies as a community member who’s caring for a loved one with dementia and they want more information about how they can make sure that their family member’s going to be safe while they’re working or whatever, can they call, is there a checklist or something that you all do to help them figure out how to be proactive?

Tara Bond:

Yes. So on our website, we have wandering safety measures, and part of that, one of the biggest things is if your loved ones missing call 911 right away. You don’t have to wait a 24 or 48 hour period. If you called us back in two minutes and said, “You know what? We found them.” That is totally okay. We also want somebody to stay where they were last seen and the person that usually has the most information. That does not mean that other people can’t go looking, but before you get caught up in looking, call us right away, wait there, have somebody talk to the officers so they can give them all the information they need.

Tara Bond:

We’re very big supporters of identification bracelets or identification jewelry, something that’s going to be wearable. That makes the reunification process so much faster. Because a lot of times, to no fault, follow the caregiver because you can’t keep your eye on somebody 24/7. They may not realize the person’s missing right away. So we may get a call from a citizen saying, “I’m concerned about this person. They seem disoriented or lost or confused.” And unfortunately, the person might not remember who they are or where they live. So if they have identification bracelets and think about layers of safety, a phone, a wallet, but something that’s wearable is a lot better because hopefully, that’s going to be on them because they may not always take that cell phone or their wallet with them. We also have on our website, a link to a neighbor letter, letting your neighbors know. It gives them permission to help you. If they don’t know that your husband or wife or your family members shouldn’t be out by themselves, now they would, and it would give them permission to step up and try to bring that person home or call you.

Tara Bond:

We also have a 911 script. That’s information prepared about your loved one or a client ahead of time. People can be very emotional sometimes and upset and hard to communicate. So having that information prepared ahead of time. And alarm systems are really great. Not only do they help you keep bad people out of your house, they can also alert you to when a loved one might try to go out of the house. If that’s not financially feasible, the magnetic window or door chimes that you can purchase at Home Depot, Lowe’s, you can even do them on Amazon. Something to bring to your attention that your loved one’s gone missing or tried to go out the door. And that’s just a brief overview of what we do.

Patricia Dubroof:

I know. Tell me the website, because I forgot to put that on the screen. I’m putting it in chat.

Tara Bond:

Okay. So you go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/lifesaver. And yeah, I think you do a capital L.

Patricia Dubroof:

Doesn’t matter.

Tara Bond:

Yep.

Patricia Dubroof:

Great. Thank you. I forgot to put that on the slide. So this is really an amazing benefit that Montgomery County Police Department has chosen to put dollars and officers into. And we’re so, so happy that you’re here and working with our senior communities.

Patricia Dubroof:

I know you do these programs all over the county, which is one of the reasons that your outreach is working so well. And I know we’re thrilled to be able to record this today so that folks can find it on our video blog library in the future as well. And we’ll be promoting it that way.

Patricia Dubroof:

We also wanted to talk a little bit about what happens if someone passes away in your home. So, you’re taken care of a loved one who’s a stroke survivor or who has Alzheimer’s. It’s not a hospice situation where you know they’re going to pass away, it just naturally occurs. And what happens when that happens? Who do you call? What should a family member be prepared to do?

Tara Bond:

So I will let Officer Beard answer this one.

Katie Beard:

So when somebody passes away in a home, it’s considered, by the state of Maryland, as an unattended death. So that means they didn’t pass away under the care of a doctor, immediate care of the doctor, like a hospital situation, assisted living, something like that. They actually, just passed away in their home, surrounded by their loved ones.

Katie Beard:

So the first thing you need to do is to call 911. You need to get fire and rescue out there and you need to get the police out there. Well, what do they do? So fire and rescue will check the person first to make sure that they are deceased. They will pronounce the person, the date, and the time that they are deceased. And then they’re going to wait for us.

Katie Beard:

So we, as the police were going to come in and we’re required to document the incident, we’re required to make sure that there was no foul play involved in the death, that this person died of natural causes. What kinds of medications were they on? Those are the types of questions you’re going to get. Who was the primary care doctor? They’re going to ask you, what kind of medications were they on? What’s the dosage? What are the milligrams? They’re going to ask you when’s the last time they went to a doctor. They’re going to ask you when was the last time they were seen alive. When did you find them? Go through the last, basically, 24 hours of their life with you so they can put together what has been occurring over the last couple of weeks so that they get a better picture of why the person is deceased.

Katie Beard:

So there’s going to be multiple officers on the scene. There’s going to be one who’s doing all the information gathering. They’re going to ask the medication questions, the doctor questions. And then there’s going to be another officer who is going to help out with the family. They may make some phone calls for you. They might make sure that all the loved ones are together in a room so that they can comfort each other and they can ask questions together, so we’re not chasing people all over the house.

Katie Beard:

The other thing is, we are required to call the medical examiner for the state of Maryland. He or she is going to determine if the body is going to be released to the family or if it requires an autopsy. So a lot of the time during a natural death, they’re going to release the body to the family. So now it’s up to the family to decide which funeral home is going to come. We’re also required to speak to our homicide division so that they get an idea of that there’s no foul play, there’s no reason for them to respond, and that the body has been released by the state of Maryland.

Katie Beard:

So once all of those phone calls occur, we can help you find the funeral home. Some people already have a plan and already have a list of things that they want to be done. Where they want to be buried, what they’re going to be wearing, they want all of those things. So they also have the funeral home picked out. So a lot of times we’ll help with that. We’ll call the funeral home for them. We’ll help. When they remove the person out of the home, they’re going to give you an idea of … set up an appointment with you so that you can go and talk about the arrangements or the ceremonies or the burial, the things that you’re going to do to lay your loved one to rest.

Katie Beard:

And that occurs later, but they will come and give you a bunch of information. And they’ll tell you to call and set up an appointment with them. So there are going to be multiple officers. There’s going to be fire rescue personnel. Fire rescue ultimately leaves and then we are there with you through the duration to help you with any questions you have, to do the paperwork that we need to do, and to make sure that everybody knows what’s going to happen in those other steps once the person is removed from the home to follow up with the funeral home.

Patricia Dubroof:

Can you tell us how much time that takes?

Katie Beard:

It really depends on how quickly the doctor will sign the death certificate, whether we need a call back from him. It really depends on how long it takes the medical examiner to call us back. So it could take one to two hours depending. It could be a little longer if we’re waiting for the funeral home. Sometimes they’re not close. They have to prepare their van in order to come to pick up your loved one. So it will be a couple of hours.

Patricia Dubroof:

Okay. I think it’s important for folks to know. And I think the fact that this training has been developed through Montgomery county police is so helpful for all of our community members to know that there’s a very compassionate side to policing. And this is where it shines. This is one of those places.

Patricia Dubroof:

So let’s flip gears a little bit and talk about car safety. So what are some of the tips that, we have a lot of seniors living in the area, a lot of senior drivers, what can you tell the community that would help make them safer drivers and safe within their cars in terms of other folks coming to mess with them?

Katie Beard:

So the first thing you want to do when you walk out of your home or out of the grocery store, and you’re walking to your car, just look around. Look around and just see who’s out and about. Look around who seems to be waiting for somebody, or who is walking through the parking lot the same time you are. Have your keys in your hand. Get ready to open the door, get ready to unlock your car. Don’t dawdle outside of your car. Get right in your car and lock your door. And a reason that I say that is because we’ve had some recent incidents, not necessarily in any of your neighborhoods, but around the county, there have been a number of carjackings. And so the first thing you want to do when you get in your car is to lock your doors. Make sure you’re wearing your seatbelt, make sure you’re looking left and right when you’re driving, especially if you’re going to change lanes.

Katie Beard:

I know that all these new high-tech cars have these blind spot identifiers. They make noise if you go over the line. They have all this new technology. But you still want to look, because you always want to make sure that there’s nobody next to you or coming up beside you when you’re trying to change lanes.

Katie Beard:

Make sure that you can reach the pedals, make sure that you’re comfortable in your seat because you don’t want to be uncomfortable trying to drive because then your attention is diverted more to being uncomfortable than to actually driving the vehicle. Make sure you’re not driving distracted, no text messages, no phone calls. Make sure that you’re focused on the road and that you’re reading the street signs so you know if your turn is coming up, you’re not getting over to the next lane. You actually have time to make it over and to make your turn. Focus on speed, making sure … A lot of the speed limits, especially outside of Leisure World down Georgia Avenue have changed. They’ve actually-

Patricia Dubroof:

That’s this past month, hasn’t it?

Katie Beard:

Yep. So a lot of those have gone from 45 to 35. So make sure that you’re driving the speed limit, make sure that you know what the speed limit is on the road when you’re traveling on these roadways.

Patricia Dubroof:

Okay. So let me ask you this important question. Your Leisure World, that’s your territory. How many times do you get calls for accidents from the parking lot at the Giant?

Katie Beard:

I don’t have the statistics, but I could say probably at least twice a week.

Patricia Dubroof:

So we all know that pulling in and out of a parking spot can be challenging. And I just want you all to know that you have to be super, super careful. There are so many pedestrians. Especially, people are a little more nervous with the whole COVID challenges and they’re rushing, they may not be looking everywhere, they’ve got a mask on it. Sometimes it debilitates how you move your head or whatever. So please, please, please be very careful in the parking lots. Keisha says, “Absolutely true.” And what are some of the other things Katie, that you feel are on the number one list right now to keep our seniors safe and living well in Montgomery county?

Katie Beard:

Just following up with your neighbors and keeping in contact with your loved ones and making sure that they’re okay, making sure that they’re calling you so that you’re okay. Do that wellness check, do that, “Hey, just calling to see how you are. What are you up to today?” Just checking in and making sure that you’re safe, that your neighbors are safe, making sure that your doors are locked, your windows are locked. And I’m not telling you to keep them locked forever, but just be really mindful of the time of day, and when you should close them, and which ones you’re opening, and making sure you’re closing them again. Making sure that you know who’s coming to your front door and if you don’t, don’t open the door.

Patricia Dubroof:

So one of the things I know I’ve heard you all talk about before is something called a well-check, where you know a neighbor and you’re not part of their family and you’re not sure how you might get in touch with them. You wouldn’t feel comfortable knocking on their door. You can actually call your unit, right? And you all would make what’s called a well-check?

Tara Bond:

Actually, you’d call the non-emergency. Sorry.

Patricia Dubroof:

I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Tara Bond:

Nope, sorry, Katie, go ahead.

Katie Beard:

Yeah, you can call the non-emergency number and have a patrol officer come over. Our non-emergency number is 301-279-8000. And you would just speak to the call taker, tell them you’re concerned about your neighbor, that they’re not answering their phone or that they haven’t been seen in a few days. Whatever the case is, whatever information you can provide to them. Or that you saw them yesterday, but you haven’t seen them today, and you see them every day. Just something that the officer can go in and say, “Hey, we got a call, your neighbor’s concerned about you. We just want to make sure you’re okay.” And a patrol officer, usually two of them, will come. Sometimes they walk around the outside first before they knock on the door just to see if they can see anything in the windows. Make sure no one has fallen, make sure nobody is hurt or yelling, and then they’ll knock on the door. And if you come to the door, then they’ll say, “Hey, we just want to make sure you’re okay. Your neighbor was concerned about you. They wanted us to check on you.”

Patricia Dubroof:

So, does Michelle want to show her face and say hi and explain what you do, introduce yourself? We have just a couple of minutes left.

Michele Smith:

Sure. Good morning. My name’s Michele Smith and I’m a police officer out of the Rockville district. I work with Tara and the community services division. And I know we don’t have a lot of time, but I just wanted to briefly talk about some of the scams that are in the area that seem to target … I mean, they target a lot of people, but they specifically seem to target the elderly. And we just wanted to make you aware, if you haven’t already been aware, of some of these.

Michele Smith:

One of them is social security. I don’t know how many of you may have received calls from social security. I know my husband has and I’ve received them as well. And they’ll call and say there’s been an issue with your social security number and we need you to call us. Or someone has used your social security number, we need you to call us. And I just wanted to let you know, if you receive any calls about your social security, that it’s a scam. Please do not press one to talk to them because they’re labile to really try to convince you there is an issue or call the number. If social security needs to get a hold of you, they will send you a letter in the mail. Anybody that reaches out to you on your phone about social security is definitely a scam.

Michele Smith:

And the other one that seems to happen a lot, and I can tell you, it happened to me, as I was on my computer one day, just checking my emails, my personal computer at home. And all of a sudden, my screen froze and Microsoft popped up and it says your computer has been infected, and there’s a virus, and you need to call us right away. And it really does make you panic because I do all my billing on the computer. And I was very concerned that there was a virus on my computer.

Michele Smith:

And they do this all the time. And they make you feel like you have to do something right away. And I want to just let you know that if that happens to you, and I know it seems like it’s very worrisome because you’re in your own home, you’re on your computer, and all of a sudden it freezes and you feel that the only thing you can do is call, and you think Microsoft is a legitimate company, but this is a scam. So I just wanted to let you know that all you need to do if that happens to you is just shut off your computer and reboot it, and you’ll be fine.

Michele Smith:

Please do not call these people. There’ve been so many seniors that were scammed. I’ve talked to several where this happened. They called the number, and they gave the people access to their computer, and they ended up paying thousands of dollars. And they think that they’re helping them when really, again, it’s just a scam. So if that happens to you, please just shut off your computer and reboot it, and everything will be okay.

Patricia Dubroof:

Thank you, Michele. That’s great information. I know that we’re so connected to our computers now, and especially with Zoom. So many seniors have brilliantly learned how to use Zoom, but it does open them up to even more possible scams. And that number of scam calls. I mean, I don’t know about you all, but my cell phone is constantly ringing with numbers that have nothing to do with my business or my family. And just don’t answer. That’s the best answer. Don’t answer those calls. If you don’t recognize them, then they probably don’t know you and they probably won’t leave you a voicemail. Your friends will want to leave a voicemail for you. Trust me. They want to be in touch with you.

Patricia Dubroof:

So this is great information. I put a bunch of things in chat. And like I said when we edit this down and make it a usable video, some of those highlights will be in the video as well. So we can share this again and again. I thank you so much for your service, for your support of our community. We couldn’t be here without you all. So thank you, thank you, thank you. And if there’s anything we can ever do for you, please, don’t hesitate to ask.

Katie Beard:

Our pleasure. Thank you very much.

Tara Bond:

Thank you.

Patricia Dubroof:

I want to mention that next month, our guest will be Janet Gritz, who is a speech pathologist and works very closely with stroke survivors. And this is another group of folks who really need support from the entire community. And Janet has been a fabulous supporter and we’re honored to have her, and she will be talking about all things stroke from the stroke association to stroke support groups, to how to identify that you’re having a stroke, which is a really easy thing to identify for yourself. And it’s so important to get right to a hospital as soon as you feel like you’re having any symptoms. So again, I wish you a wonderful, wonderful rest of the day, and thank you for joining us for What’s Your Plan.

If you would like to schedule an appointment to discuss your Alzheimer’s and Dementia care needs or to set up a free in-home evaluation with one of our nurses, call us today in MD at (301) 363-2580. We are located in Bethesda, MD, (301) 363-2580, and Reston, VA, (703) 556-8983.