911 or its equivalent should only be used in true emergencies. However, conditions in the elderly, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, can cause them to assume they’re in danger or forget the significance of 911. What are some tactics for stopping the elderly from calling this number?
You can stop the elderly from calling 911 by taking away their phone and using a senior phone service. You can also tell the local police and fire department to notify you if you see your parent or grandparent dial the emergency number.
It’s frustrating and embarrassing when the elderly person in your life calls 911 frequently. You don’t want to draw the ire of your police or fire department and worry if you’ll be taken seriously if an emergency does happen. This guide will get to the bottom of your issue and explain how to solve it.
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Why Do the Elderly Call 911?
Before we delve into the tactics for preventing seniors from calling 911, let’s explore the reasons the elderly are inclined to do this in the first place.
Age and the myriad health conditions and diseases that often come with it can confuse the elderly. The cognitive decline continues as a senior gets older. Diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s accelerate that decline.
A senior does not necessarily know what they’re doing in a confused state. They may believe they are in danger or unsure why they picked up the phone. Sometimes, the senior might not even remember dialing 911, and will be just as surprised as you when the police or fire department shows up at your door.
Paranoia is a side effect of dementia that can occur in seniors without cognitive disorders. A paranoid senior could believe someone is after them and frequently contact the police or fire departments to help them.
Delusions can also convince them these false facts are true and motivate them to continually seek help even though they aren’t in trouble.
Vision declines are standard in the elderly. Between their worsening vision and the potential hallucinations seniors can experience (especially those with Alzheimer’s or dementia), they can see threats that aren’t there.
Whether the senior perceives a fire or someone trying to break into their home, they’ll quickly dial 911.
Finally, the elderly can call 911 for the same reason as anyone, to report an ongoing emergency.
Tactics for Preventing the Elderly from Calling 911
Unless your senior parent or grandparent calls 911 in the latter situation, any instance of dialing emergency assistance without needing it is a problem. They’re wasting a first responder’s valuable time and requiring police and fire departments to come to the property for no reason.
After all, no matter how much you tell them it’s not an emergency, they must still assess the situation themselves.
In the meantime, those who truly need the help aren’t getting it, so how can you stop the elderly from calling 911 unless they need it? Here are a few strategies.
Revoking Phone Access
This is the most extreme measure, as taking away a senior’s phone prevents them from calling friends, family, their doctor, and anyone else they need to contact.
Further, if they have a true emergency, they’ll be without options for reaching the police or fire department.
This method might have a 100 percent effectiveness rate, but that’s only because the senior cannot call anyone. You should only use this measure if you live with the senior full-time or if they have another live-in caretaker to monitor them.
You can ensure they aren’t stuck in an emergency without recourse.
Using a Senior Phone Service
You can also look into a senior phone service, such as teleCalm, designed to reduce instances of problematic phone calls. After all, an elderly person who calls 911 unnecessarily probably also has other phone numbers on speed dial.
They can pester you and other family all day, preventing you from completing work or taking care of other responsibilities.
teleCalm routes a senior’s 911 calls to the nearest emergency response center, but other senior phone services could work differently.
Rerouting Calls to You
You can also contact your local police and fire departments and let them know about the problem with your senior parent or grandparent dialing 911 every chance they get. Tell them to contact you if the calls come through.
However, this won’t stop the elderly from misdialing for emergency services.
Do You Get Charged for Making Too Many 911 Calls?
You worry that if the elderly person in your life calls 911 too frequently they’ll get in serious trouble for doing so, such as receiving a fine. Can that happen?
It’s a misdemeanor charge if you knowingly make a false police report, which could result in a fine of $1,000 or a year in county jail. However, that punishment is more for prank calls than an elderly person confusedly dialing 911 believing they’re in danger.
You will not receive a punishment for that, but it’s worth discouraging for the reasons discussed above.
It’s frustrating when your senior parent or grandparent calls 911 unnecessarily. You know they don’t mean to do it, and sometimes, they have a very good reason to, at least in their mind. However, they’ve yet to be in any real danger, and they’re wasting a first responder’s time and preventing them from responding to other emergencies.
You have options for preventing the elderly from dialing 911. While taking away phone access will work, think twice about this solution if they live independently, as they won’t be able to receive help in an actual emergency.