Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

February 10, 2020

One year ago, the body of an elderly man was found in his Napier home weeks after he died. At the time, it was the fourth such case in Hawkes Bay in 6 months prompting the NZ Herald to highlight what they described as a “worrying trend” of elderly people lying undiscovered at home alone.

Regrettable and potentially avoidable situations like this are particularly upsetting for family, friends and neighbours who are left to wonder how things might have been different if a system of checks was in place.

Deborah Biggs from Age Concern Hawkes Bay said at the time “we all need to keep a caring eye on our neighbours and if you don’t see the curtains open in the morning, or mail uncollected, knock on the door and check they are okay.”

Since those comments were made in March 2019 more elderly people have died at home and been left undiscovered, highlighting the need for a better system to ensure vulnerable people are checked on as soon as there is any cause for concern

As far back as 1997 (following a similar incident in Wellington) coroner Erika Kremic said “It would not take much effort or imagination to put in place a system by which regular checks were made on people known to be living alone.” However, even if such as system was in place, we know from similar events at retirement villages that this sort of thing can happen even when attentive neighbours and support staff are nearby.

Retirement Villages Aren’t Immune

In 2017 Richard Porter was discovered in his home at a retirement village after “several days” when a carer noticed his newspapers were accumulating at his letterbox.

In 2001 Barry Laurenson was found to have a died of a heart attack a week before he was discovered.

In 2011 a renowned musician lay dead for 12 days before he was discovered in his independent apartment at a Kilbirnie retirement village in Wellington.

In all these cases the staff and neighbours were close at hand, knew the residents and were in regular contact with them yet this still wasn’t enough to avoid a tragic outcome.

An Automatic Safety Net

Spritely’s system includes a sensor that automatically checks to make sure residents are up and around as usual every morning. If anything has happened in the night which leaves someone unable to get up and call for help, Spritely will alert the village staff and a carer will immediately check on them. This life-saving service is available to all residents with Spritely. The system can also check if residents have got to bed as usual in the evening and it can also raise the alarm if there is cause for concern during the day.

If residents are going away and they want to avoid false alarms they can use Spritely’s tablet to update their status to “Away” at the touch of a button.