911 centers dealing with more calls for elderly and medically fragile
911 directors are signaling the alarm over a growing trend involving elderly residents.
The US Census Bureau reports more than 15 percent of the total population is 65 or older. A significant portion of that population doesn't have family or friends to help take care of daily needs so that population ends up calling 911 for help.
"We see the familiar faces quite frequently," Madison County 911 Director Carlos Coyle explained. He said some patients call 911 200-plus times in a calendar year. "If we don't transport, we don't charge. And that's just a mission we're going to continue to do. It's the right thing to do for the people in the community. It's a need that we're the appropriate people to fill that need. That need obviously is increasing and I think most EMS in our area will tell you they've seen an increase as well."
In Madison County, the EMS center calls them 'lift assists" -- typically elderly people or medically fragile people that call 911 mainly for help that doesn't require a hospital visit.
"That means we, maybe, helped them out of the floor, helped them back in the bed or in a chair," Coyle explained.
In 2016, 184 residents in Madison County called 911 for lift assists. In 2017 it went up to 204 and last year it was 238.
"And I expect it to increase again this year," Coyle predicted. "There doesn't appear to be an end in sight or an end in any reasonable amount of time as far as helping these folks."
"This goes back to the drug epidemic too," Coyle reminded. "Sometimes these older folks, their children or even their grandchildren may be drug addicted and they are unable to help care for them as well, so there's that angle."
Another problem is some elderly people just don't want help. Coyle said agencies in the area are prepared to help assist people who can't do it for themselves. However, many people won't accept it. Counties across the state are using different strategies to curb the growing calls, but Coyle says there's no magic answer.
There's just a number, and it's continuing to grow.