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Hot meals with a side of fire and fall prevention education

Tri-fold community partnership aims to reduce leading causes of accidental death in seniors

“Do you think I should put that second railing in?” soon-to-be 90 year-old Joyce asked as she leaned over to her daughter, who had stopped by her mother’s house to check in on her.

Joyce’s question was prompted by a suggestion from Regions Hospital Injury Prevention Program Coordinator Shonette Doggett, who was making a safety visit at Joyce’s home along with St. Paul Fire Department Safety Education Coordinator Jeremy Berger.

Each year across the country, falls send 2.5 million seniors to emergency departments, hospitalize 700,000 and are the leading cause of fatal injuries among adults ages 65+. In Minnesota, seniors are also the population at the highest risk for fatality in a residential fire.

That’s why Regions Hospital and the St. Paul Fire Department have teamed up to provide St. Paul seniors with fire and fall prevention information from the National Fire Protection Association’s Remembering When program. Thanks to a strong partnership with Merrick Community Services that’s been in place since January, Shonette and Jeremy been able to visit and educate nearly 50 seniors on the east side of St. Paul by doubling as Meals on Wheels volunteers.

Picture of Shonette and Evelyn - teaching fall safety

Joyce, who has received hot, nutritious meals from Merrick Community Services since last August, is one of those seniors. In her case, the home safety visit included a conversation where Shonette explained how all individuals have a stronger arm that they will use to try and catch themselves during a fall. By meeting Joyce in her home, Shonette was able to speak to her specific situation of still using the stairs to do laundry in the basement and explain that having a railing on both sides of the staircase would protect her climbing the stairs in both directions.

As Shonette spoke with Joyce about fall prevention, which includes medication, environmental and exercise factors, Jeremy inspected her home to make sure she had working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. He also communicated with Joyce that, as a citizen of St. Paul, she can call up the Fire Department any time and ask them to check her smoke alarms. He stressed that the Fire Department will make these Safe Haven visits for no charge and also help her replace smoke alarms when needed. 

Picture of Jeremy and Shonette working together

While some seniors just wanted to receive their meals, the majority, like Joyce, have been very receptive to learning more about how to protect themselves from falls and fire.

It’s that positive response and the seamless way in which the organizations have worked together that has Shonette and Jeremy already focused on broadening the program. The two have also now offered large group presentations to Merrick Community Services’ senior group, as well as other senior living facilities, and St. Paul Fire has expanded home visits to the midtown area of St. Paul. Additionally, because Regions Hospital is the trauma center for the greater east metro and Western Wisconsin area, Shonette has made partnerships to bring the same education to Cottage Grove and Maplewood, and is currently seeking to connect with the fire departments in even more communities.

As the program grows, they will train additional volunteers in partner organizations to incorporate fire and fall prevention education into volunteer work they are already doing in their communities.

Interested in sharing this program with your own community or learning more?

Contact Regions Hospital Injury Prevention Program Coordinator Shonette Doggett at

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