How Salvation Army Senior Well-being Checks Are Saving Lives – Including Tom’s

Jul 15, 2020

When Noelle knocked on Tom’s door, she didn’t know what to expect. But then, she and her fellow Salvation Army staff members who perform senior well-being checks for the City of Chicago never do. They simply know that a landlord, family member, or other person has requested someone make sure this individual age 60 or older is okay.

Noelle certainly didn’t know that she’d soon be calling for an ambulance – and likely saving Tom’s life.

Tom* was kind but wary of Noelle at first. “He just cracked his door and wouldn’t let me inside,” Noelle said, adding that that’s not too uncommon for the well-being checks. “He was confused as to why I was there.”

The confusion was exacerbated by the fact that 70-something Tom is hard of hearing, and he and Noelle struggled to communicate. One thing was immediately clear to Noelle: Something was terribly wrong with Tom’s leg. “It was swollen from hip to foot, about five times the normal size,” Noelle said. The odor coming from his leg was the most alarming. But he wasn’t giving her an explanation or asking for medical help.

Before leaving his home, Noelle called the program manager to express her concerns. He suggested she call the paramedics.

“Tom wasn’t happy I called 911,” Noelle said. At first he refused medical care, but as the paramedics talked with him and made him feel more comfortable, he finally shared that he had injured his leg recently and never gotten it treated. 

The paramedics told Noelle this is a common side-effect of COVID-19. Many seniors, aware of their increased risk for the virus, are avoiding hospitals and doctors right now, sometimes to their peril. This could account for why Salvation Army staff have seen an increase in requests for senior well-being checks, now up to 30-40 requests per week.

In fact, this increase is why Noelle was even knocking on Tom’s door. Our small staff performing these visits needed more help, so Noelle, whose usual job is helping area Salvation Army corps community centers with their social services programs, has been lending a hand. “In COVID times, it’s all hands on deck,” she said.

When Noelle told the paramedics she felt bad for calling them since Tom was unhappy about it, they reassured her that if she hadn’t, he probably would have lost his life. “They said he wouldn’t have survived this injury without treatment,” Noelle said.

When the paramedics took Tom to the hospital, Noelle went too to relay whatever information she could about Tom’s situation, and to encourage the hospital social worker to get Tom connected to in-home care. “In non-COVID times we’d do intensive case management,” Noelle said. But with the spike in requests for help, Army staff are doing what they can for each individual. “This was a pretty quick situation,” she said. “We provided crisis care.”

As she walked away from the hospital that day, Noelle was filled with gratitude. “I’m grateful I was in the right place at the right time, and that I’m part of a team that gave me the direction to get him care,” she said. “It’s comforting to know that Tom has a chance for healthcare and the help he needs moving forward.”

Noelle also has an increased respect for the Army staff doing the senior well-being checks. “The Senior Services team is amazing! They save lives,” she said. “I’m so grateful The Salvation Army is providing that service.” And now, so is Tom.

*Name changed to protect client’s privacy.

Learn about all the ways The Salvation Army is responding to the coronavirus – as well as how you can help – at salarmychicago.org/coronavirus


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For tax purposes: The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division EIN is 36-2167910.


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