As time passes, neighborhoods and communities change. New homes, shopping centers, and schools can make old ones unappealing and of little interest. Economics can change and affect how much a community can spend on things like street paving, community events, education, and safety. Around this country there are many once-prosperous towns that now struggle to collect enough tax dollars to have an adequate police force or even repair street lights.
The issues that lead to these problems can vary widely. Unemployment, people moving from the community, environmental issues and natural disasters are just a few issues that can turn a thriving community into a faltering one. And often with these new struggles comes an increase in crime.
If your aging parent is living in a community that is on the downswing, they might be feeling unsafe. Or they might not be taking the precautions they should to better protect themselves. Worst yet, they might already have been a victim of crime and not told you because they don’t want you to worry. They may still be drawn to their old neighborhood because of relationships with neighbors, a lack of perspective on what other options may be available, or financial concerns.
In this series by Executor.org, we look at issues and problems that could be happening in your parent’s life that they are not telling you about and offer solutions to help manage these situations. As parents age, communication matters more than ever, and your ability to keep your parents talking as they encounter new problems will be critical as your role in their lives evolves.
“My Neighborhood Is No Longer Safe”
If you are concerned about the safety of your parent’s neighborhood, there are ways to learn more about the specifics of the situation beyond just talking to them. When a crime is reported or an arrest made, police file a report on the matter. And that police report is public record. Keep in mind, however, at times community leaders prefer to not have people know that crime is occurring in their town. They might try to downplay incidents or make it cumbersome to see crime reports. Also, they might not be forthcoming about current investigations because sharing information can make it harder to catch the culprit. You might have to be persistent and abide by their terms, which can include personally visiting the police station to review the files and/or paying a fee to copy police reports. Another way to learn more about the crime in a neighborhood is by contacting the local newspaper. Many newspapers only report serious crimes that are considered felonies, such as murder. But reporters will likely have a sense of a community’s safety level. They can share general information about break-ins, thefts and other crimes that may be considered small when compared to murder and rape, but still be very traumatic for victims. Of course it is also wise to talk to others living in your parent’s neighborhood. But remember that sometimes as news spreads, gossip and speculation can replace fact. So do your best to get the accurate information.
You can always start by asking your parent if their neighborhood is safe, but remember they might be reluctant to discuss the matter because they don’t want you to worry. If you have done your own research and have cause for concern, it’s time to talk to them about their thoughts. Do they feel safe? Are they aware of the crime that is occurring? Do they have any ideas for how they can make their home safer but need help to do so? If they appear to be downplaying the problem and insist that they’ll be just fine, it might be time to ask them to consider the matter from another angle. What if it was you who was living in their home, in their neighborhood? Would they tell you to stay put because the crime isn’t going to affect you? Or would they tell you to move to a safer area or take more safety precautions? By looking at it from this perspective, they might be better able to assess the threat.
Once you know your parent’s thoughts, you can plan a course of action. Of course, keep in mind compromise might be needed. Perhaps you would like them to move to a safer area. But even if they have the resources to do so, are they open to the idea? Moving can be a tough proposition, especially if your parent is a longtime resident. Sorting and packing up our belongings is a tough job for most of us, even when we are young. It is very likely your parent will not have the energy or desire to leave the place that is most comfortable to them and holds memories of years gone by.
If a move is out of the question, there are other options. Security systems can alert police to a break-in or issue in the home. Some of these systems also can provide an easy way for your parent to get help should they become ill or fall, so they can have a secondary value as well. For example, with some you have the option to get a key fob that you can sit next to your bed for safety at night or carry with you through the day. Many communities and schools offer self-defense courses too. These include both physical ways to protect oneself, but also simple steps you can take to make yourself safer in general. For example, these courses can provide tips about being more mindful of suspicious activity. They also can teach us ways to keep criminals from preying on us or our homes, such as always locking doors, using outdoor lighting and not walking alone. Online resources are also plentiful. For example, the National Crime Prevention Council offers this checklist for home safety, among other information about preventing crime.
There is no simple answer or perfect solution when it comes to trying to keep your parent safe. However, by working with them to learn the reality of what is going on in their community, you can begin to help them take steps to reduce the chance that they will become a victim of crime.