Calling Service

How to Find a Service to Check on Older Adults
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If you're caring for an older adult who's living at home alone, it's wise to have a way to check in daily, in case of a fall or other medical emergency that leaves the person unable to call for help. Two such ways to make that happen: a daily calling service or a volunteer visiting program.

Daily calling services

One simple, free solution -- practically a must for older adults living alone -- is a daily calling service, sometimes referred to as "Are You OK?" services. These are run by police or sheriff's departments in most counties and are provided free of charge.

  • How they work: A computer calls subscribers at a designated time each day; if they don't pick up, whomever the older adult has designated gets an in-person call. If that person isn't reachable, calls are made to backup people who've also agreed to check on the older adult if necessary.

The fallback if no one can be reached -- or if no one answers a knock on the door once the backup list is alerted -- is that police or other emergency services personnel will be dispatched to the home.

  • How to find them: Simply call the local police department's nonemergency number and ask about daily calling services for older adults. Once someone signs up, it's important to remember to suspend service when he's out of town or in the hospital. This helps to avoid unnecessary -- and potentially alarming -- calls to the people on his support list when he doesn't pick up.

Volunteer visiting programs

These are another great way to make sure that someone is checking in on an older adult on a regular basis.

  • How they work: Run by churches, community groups, or social services agencies, these programs vary in how they operate. Most provide trained volunteers who will visit an older adult -- usually for an hour or two once a week -- at home or in nursing homes or senior living communities, providing companionship as well as the reassurance that someone is checking in on a regular basis.

In addition to the comfort of knowing that a visitor will be able to alert someone if the person's health or living conditions start to decline, they provide the most fundamental of all supports -- company and social interaction.

  • How to find them: Local churches are a good place to start looking for these programs. Even if the person in your care doesn't already belong to a congregation that offers a visiting matchup service, he may still be eligible. Also, SeniorCorps trains retirees to volunteer as companions to older adults. In some regions, AmeriCorps volunteers visit with the elderly while also offering support for such needs as transportation to doctor's appointments.


Nell Bernstein

Nell Bernstein's writings have appeared on Salon. See full bio

about 2 years, said...

I am using a service I found that is half the price of most for my father. It is They make calls nationwide and it is great since I travel and can not check in as much as I want

almost 3 years, said...

I am using It checks in on my mom every day and alerts me if there is a problem. I still call her a couple of times a week, but having this service helps keep the entire family updated on her wellbeing

over 8 years, said...

Thank for the article Nell. Another program that is available to seniors is call CARE (CAll REassurance) and is likewise available to seniors from their local police or sheriff's office for free. If the local community does not offer this service, seniors (and family members) can subscribe to this service online for a fee. The website that lists the communities where CARE is available and where to subscribe is

almost 9 years, said...

Great article Nell, I didn't know about the free phone check ins offered by many police stations. Thanks for the tip. I work for a nation-wide organization of in-home care providers and I just wanted to share one piece of advice with the readers. Please be careful on who you invite into your loved one's home. There has been a big rise in eldercare scams since the beginning of the recession. If you have any in-home care questions, please feel free to visit our blog and ask one of our experts. Best, Bill