October 4, 2007 in Voices

YANA helps seniors living alone

By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photo

Betty Howitt, a volunteer with the Post Falls Police has taken on the project called You Are Not Alone, or YANA, in which she calls and chats with elderly and homebound people to make sure they are OK.
(Full-size photo)


To learn more about the YANA program and download an application, visit its Web site at:

http://www.postfalls police.com/you_are_not_ alone.htm or call the Post Falls Police Department at 773-3517. Coordinators Robin Hutchins and Carol Nettles are available for in-person presentations to seniors and civic groups. Call the Police Department for their availabilities.

POST FALLS – Carol Nettles knows what it takes to help elderly people live independently in their own homes. She’s doing just that for her 85-year-old mother.

Now, Nettles is applying her skills to help coordinate a new, free program for Post Falls’ senior citizens.

The You Are Not Alone program, or YANA, is sponsored by the Post Falls Police Department.

“I don’t think anybody is as happy as they are in their very own homes,” said Nettles, a former police dispatcher and member of VIPS, Volunteers In Police Service, the umbrella under which YANA is offered.

Launched in August, YANA makes regular phone calls and home visits with elderly people in Post Falls who don’t have family in the area.

Betty Howitt, also a YANA volunteer, said the outreach effort was first suggested Police Chief Cliff Hayes in 2003.

“It’s a wonderful program,” Howitt said. “There are so many seniors … without anyone to turn to. It’s so important to know there’s help and somewhere people can turn to.”

She works the YANA’s phones, regularly checking on participants.

“We keep a log with the time of call and what they said,” Howitt said. “Were they feeling good? Did they have any concerns?”

The calls are backed up by home visits.

Nettles said a pair of VIPS volunteers – always in a city patrol car – check weekly on seniors in person. A man and woman pair up on the visits.

Nettles said that ensures one of them can handle gender-sensitive issues should they arise.

Notes are made on participants’ general health, how well they’re caring for themselves and whether they’re handling their affairs, she said.

Before they’re enrolled, program volunteers must pass strict background checks, take polygraphs, get fingerprinted and master CPR and first aid.

The investment, Howitt said, gives back as much as it provides.

“It does as much for me as it does for them,” she said. “It gives you such a good feeling to make someone feel cared for.”

Before they’re accepted into the program, clients must meet certain YANA criteria, Nettles said.

Generally, they live alone, have no family or close friends in the area, agree to program conditions and provide personal information to assist volunteers looking after them.

To get it off the ground required a lot of research as well as financial and human capital, Nettles said.

She added: “You have to know you have enough resources to carry it out and not let somebody down.”

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