Elderly Couple Called Fire Dept. 1.1K Times

Va. woman said she has no other way to get her husband out of bed
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2016 8:47 AM CDT
Elderly Couple Called Fire Dept. 1.1K Times
Officials in Virginia Beach, Va., are crying foul after reports an elderly couple call firefighters for help twice daily. In this file photo, firefighters in Cheektowaga, NY, help an elderly patient.   (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

Residents of Virginia Beach, Va., are asking how much is too much after reports that an elderly couple called firefighters 1,100 times in the past three years, WTKR reports. Shirley Niemiec says she has no choice but to call firefighters daily to help her husband George get out of bed. The fire chief estimated that each visit cost about $65, WTKR reports. But the firefighters union puts that total much higher: between $250,000 and half a million dollars, according to WTVR. "We wanted to keep him at home and the only help he needs is getting in and out of bed," Shirley Niemiec told WTVR. She said they thought they found a solution when they bought a lift to help George get out of bed. But, she said, “I thought I could do it myself but I couldn't.”

So she started dialing up the fire station 1.8 miles from her house. The couple can’t afford the $25 an hour to hire a home health care aide, Shirley Niemiec said, and they don’t qualify for free social services. The situation poses a dilemma for fire officials who say more and more elderly call asking for help. Fire Chief Kenneth Pravet said enough is enough. “We are not in the home healthcare business,” he told WTVR. “We are not here to provide non-emergency support.” But City Manager Dave Hansen said the firefighters will keep answering calls like Shirley Niemiec’s until they find another solution. (Read more elderly care stories.)

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