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The Neighborly Thing
Photo by Cooper Henckel

Coroner encourages neighbors to check-in after at-home deaths rise

Story By Cooper Henckel
Local News Published 02/19/2021 6:24PM
Rhinelander - Health officials have said, throughout the pandemic, one of the best ways of fighting the spread of COVID-19 has been to stay at home and keep your distance from others.

But that means: if something goes wrong -- and you live alone -- help may arrive too late.

The Medical Examiner for Oneida, Forest, and Vilas Counties, Crystal Shaub says: she's seen an increase in deaths due to slips and falls in the home. Those things usually spikes in winter but COVID-19 has made vulnerable populations less likely to be found in time.

"Right now, especially in the winter time and with COVID going on, people are afraid to go out," says Shaub. "What we're seeing is a rise in home deaths with people who have fallen and they've been on the ground for a couple days or more."

Shaub says simply putting on a mask and being neighborly can help save a life.

Shaub says just knocking on the window and getting a response is good enough. For seniors, establishing a routine -- whether it's a call once a day at a certain time or waving goodbye in the morning -- can be life-saving.

"Typically if you call your child or neighbor every day at a certain time and that phone call doesn't come in, that family member or friend/neighbor will get worried because you didn't call and that starts the process," says Shaub.

If you do see something strange or don't hear from your neighbor, call the local authorities and ask for a welfare check.

"Somebody finds them on the ground, they call 9-1-1, EMS shows up, they get them to the hospital, they have a great chance," says Shaub.

Shaub says even just being told to go away counts as "checking in".

"If they don't want to answer the door but they do come to the window, again, that's ok!" says Shaub.

Slip hazards are everywhere in winter and Shaub says taking proper precautions is key: even if it's just a quick step outside.

"Even if it's just a short walk to check the mail or just to take your dog outside," says Shaub. "Just be prepared for that cold weather element."

But it isn't just seniors or people with mobility issues that need to be worried about the dangers of falling, especially if you live alone.

"As the elderly, check in your family also, every day or every couple days," says Shaub.

"They just have to know their neighbors do care about them," says Shaub. "If they're taking that step to come and check on them, they obviously care and they care for a reason! and they're not just listening to us because we want them to, they're doing it because they want to."

Shaub says unshoveled sidewalks, uncollected mail, and a lack of fresh footprints are a good sign you should check for one that your neighbors are ok.
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