St. John Sheriff’s Officers “Protecting our precious seniors” – L’Observateur
The duties of the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office go beyond its core responsibility of law enforcement. Enhancing the lives of the senior citizens it serves also is a priority of this department.
Our local senior citizens hold a special place in the hearts of officers with the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Mike Tregre and his officers feel it is their duty – and pleasure — to look after our seniors and their welfare and to show appreciation for their dedication, accomplishments and services they have given throughout their lives.
“Their wealth of knowledge, skill and experience offer so much to the next generation,” Sheriff Tregre said. “We must do our part to make our seniors feel safe, loved and cared for.”
Protecting and caring for the elderly became a top priority for Sheriff Mike Tregre in 2012 when he was sworn into office for his first term. This group of residents, after all, represents more than 6,500 of St. John Parish constituents. And, of the 6,500, nearly 2,000 are war veterans. Therefore, it was with much care and concern that Sheriff Tregre started the Protect Our Precious Seniors program to serve senior citizens, specifically those in need. It was Sheriff Tregre’s hope that POPS would connect officers with the elderly population in St. John who live alone to offer basic assistance and support.
In its first year, in 2012, about 20 seniors registered for the weekly welfare checks from officers. Over the last nine years, the program has grown tremendously to help about 200 seniors in need as well as to provide a variety of services to nearly 6,300 elderly residents through outreach projects.
To be eligible for the program, a senior must be a resident of St. John the Baptist Parish. Seniors who live alone, may have been recently discharged from the hospital, have family or friends living far away, or if they simply need to talk to a caring person once a week can benefit from this program. The program is voluntary, free, confidential and secure.
An online registration, a POPS binder and a File of Life provided by the SJSO give officers quick access to critical information about a registered citizen with an emergency. The online registration form and the POPS binder include important information such as the names and telephone numbers of local government agencies and medical facilities. Brochures on protecting seniors against financial exploitation and personal safety tips also are included in the binders. Officers periodically review this information with POPS members. POPS officers’ visits also are logged in the binder.
Each POPS member also receives a File of Life, a red vinyl sleeve, to keep on their refrigerator. Important information such as emergency contact, allergies and illnesses, doctors’ telephone numbers, living will, organ donor information, medicines a person takes and special health conditions are kept in the file. In the event of a medical emergency, the File of Life allows first responders to quickly administer the proper treatment.
Officers make weekly visits to check in on senior citizens in their homes. Visits can be just to say hello or to have a basic conversation. Officers always assess each POPS member’s overall condition as well as his or her living conditions. The officers also report any concerns they may have or any concerns of the seniors to their primary caregivers.
Officers often stop by with donuts, a fruit basket or a sandwich, all paid for with the officer’s own money, to share with their POPS member. For a POPS birthday, officers are likely to show up with flowers or balloons and a cake, again paid for with their own money.
Officers also check in with POPS participants during power outages, approaching bad weather such as extreme heat or cold or approaching hurricanes to make sure that officers know that they are evacuating or staying with family.
When an officer is unable to make contact with a POPS member, the officer will investigate. Recently, a POPS member could not be reached during multiple scheduled visits. The grass in the senior’s yard was overgrown. The newspapers were stacking on the lawn. When multiple phone calls to the POPS member and primary caregiver went unanswered, officers started questioning neighbors. Subsequently, officers learned the POPS member had been walking to a local restaurant several times a week to have breakfast or lunch with friends. So now, officers check on him either at home or at the local restaurant. Officers also found volunteers to cut his grass.
Over the years, the POPS program has evolved into an outreach effort that provides a variety of services to all senior citizens in the community. Officers often donate and deliver groceries, portable heaters and fans, and clothes for POPS members and non-members. These officers are often the first to contact other community agencies to build handicap ramps and guard rails at homes of shut-ins. Each year, officers donate food to deliver hundreds of meals or food baskets to POPS members and other seniors for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each Christmas, officers also conduct bingo games and award prizes at the local senior centers. During Mardi Gras, residents of a local nursing home look forward to celebrating Carnival with officers. Officers supply beads and escort the home’s Carnival ball court.
Since elderly citizens have become easy targets for criminals to involve them in fraudulent schemes and scams, officers often find themselves responding to elderly calls for assistance. To educate seniors, our officers make regular visits to senior centers to talk with the elderly about protecting themselves from becoming a victim. Officers offer tips to help seniors keep themselves safe in public, in their vehicles and in their homes.
Some of the positive results of our senior citizen outreach projects are establishing trusting relationships between officers and the elderly; mending relationships between estranged family members; officers becoming more knowledgeable about scams and preventing seniors from becoming victims; and enhancing the quality of life for senior citizens.
Officers never look for recognition or monetary reimbursement for what they spend to help our seniors, Sheriff Tregre said.
“Their payment is the satisfaction and the blessing received from helping someone in need,” he said. “Serving our senior citizens is our way of showing support and appreciation for all they have done for our community. All we want to do is make our seniors feel safer, have less stress and be more positive about their life.”
Mike Tregre is the elected sheriff of St. John the Baptist Parish. His office can be reached at 985-652-9513.