June 3 at 8:00am

Check-in service gives reassurance to seniors living alone

A simple phone call can be a life-saver for a senior citizen living alone.

That certainly proved true for an 85-year-old Vista man earlier this year when he fell at his home and could’t get back up. Fortunately, he was enrolled in the free “How R U?” phone reassurance program offered through Interfaith Community Services.

Each day, participants in the program receive a computer-generated phone call to make sure they are OK. If an answering machine picks up or there is no answer, a personal follow-up call is made by Nadine Kaina, program coordinator for Interfaith Senior Services (pictured at right).

When the automated call was picked up by an answering machine, and there was no answer to Nadine’s follow-up call, she promptly called the client’s neighbor, who found the man had fallen in his home. 911 was called but the man originally refused to go with paramedics to the hospital.

However, the neighbor reported to Nadine that the man indicated he had being dizzy for several nights, so Kaina called 911 and the man’s daughter. This time, he agreed to be taken to the hospital.

Later, he called Kaina from his hospital bed to report that he was recovering and coming home soon.

That kind of reassurance is the reason for the program, created by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors about 20 years ago when a woman was found dead in her residence after lying there for five weeks.

“This program is important,” said Nadine. “Maybe it will only save one life a year, but it is a life. A year-and-a-half ago it saved a woman by calling a friend. The woman had had a diabetic event. The friend called 911 and they got her to the hospital just in time.”

Victoria Metcalfe, a Vista resident, agrees wholeheartedly. She lives with and cares for her 91-year-old father, who is disabled by severe dementia. When she enrolled her father in the program, he was able to walk and perform other functions, but would not have been able to explain to someone if he needed help, Metcalfe indicated.

“It’s a real comfort and protection. I feel safer and more secure,” she said. “It’s really a valuable service. The peace of mind it gives you, you can’t get anywhere else.”

The daily recorded call also provides a nice start to each day, Metcalfe added.

“When it calls here, you hear Nadine’s voice. At the end it says, ‘If you are OK, press 1, and have a blue sky day,” she said. “No matter how bad I feel and how busy I am, I always wait to hear that because it starts the day so pleasantly.”

The program, which is free, typically has 50 clients, and is available to residents 60 and over in Vista, San Marcos, and Oceanside.

Will Shears, 86, of Oceanside, has been enrolled for eight years, and calls the free service “a blessing.”

“I worried about being alone. What if something happened to me? This is one sure way of finding out where I am, am I OK. Like the program says, ‘RU OK?’ I’m just happy there is a program like this. As I get older, I really lean on it,” said Shears.

The daily check-in program is one of several offered by Interfaith Senior Services. Others include Minor Home Repairs, available throughout Inland and Coastal North County. Volunteers and local business groups assist in making minor repairs for qualified seniors – such services as installing grab bars and smoke detectors, repairing screen doors and windows, and fixing faucet leaks.

Also provided is the Vial of Life, a small magnetic container for medical history and medication that can be attached to a refrigerator, where paramedics or other first responders can find it in case of emergency.

Various other senior safety options are available through Interfaith Senior Services. For information, contact nadine Kaina at (760) 941-0140.