MASON CITY - Telephone Reassurance is a free service offered by Good Shepherd designed to keep seniors in their homes with the knowledge that someone will check on them.
“We guarantee participants that everyone will be contacted once a day,” said Mike Svejda, Good Shepherd administrator.
For some, it is the only contact they have with someone during the day. But the service, available seven days a week, goes beyond brief contact by telephone. If a participant doesn’t call in or there is no response to a call from Telephone Reassurance, a second call follows. If there is still no response, the designated contact person or a staff member is sent to check on the person.
If necessary, emergency officials are called.
In the reception area, Carol Hughes first picks up calls from one section of participants, then moves on to call others in two more sections. She views participants not as clients but as friends and can sense if something is wrong. “It’s really a wonderful way to talk to my friends,” said Hughes, and “you know who needs what.”
If the participant has pain or has suffered a fall, they are encouraged to call their medical provider and family.
Participants are from the “greatest generation,” said Hughes, and “they don’t like to bother anyone.” However, if they are not feeling well, many will tell her.
Supervisor Roanne Holzworth said the dialogue is very moving and sometimes is put on the speaker phone.
Holzworth is involved with the paperwork, including notes about participants. There is pertinent information about each participant, including contact information.
After two hours of phone calls starting at 7 a.m., Hughes goes to the Alzheimer’s unit, where she coordinates activities.
“I just love that,” she said, noting she always gets lots of hugs. With both assignments, she said, she hardly ever gets through a day when someone doesn’t tell her they love her.
A participant named Betty said Telephone Reassurance is a wonderful service. She said Carol is a happy person and “she makes you feel good.”
Betty agrees with Carol that she is “not a client, but a friend.”
Betty said anyone who lives alone would be foolish not to have the service. She also wears a button at all times to call for help.
Marlys, another participant, said the service helps not only her but her family.
“They know with Telephone Reassurance that I’m OK,” she said.
She calls Carol very good and careful along with being cheerful and nice.
Marlys said the No. 1 commitment of Telephone Reassurance is to help people. When her sister was in trouble, “right away somebody was out there.”
She enjoys the high school and college students who man the phones during the weekend. She said she can tell the younger ones and always has questions for them.
Marlys’s father came from Norway, and she said she signs off with “many thousand thanks” in Norwegian.
About the program:
• Started in 1974 with an endowment through the Gregory Linden Estate. The endowment ran out 10 years ago and now the program is funded by donations and grants from foundations and businesses.
• Available throughout North Iowa for people over 60 who live alone. There is no charge.
• You may register for yourself or someone you know who lives alone.
• Call or visit Good Shepherd, at 324 Second St. N.E., Mason City.
• Telephone Reassurance phone number: 641-424-9085; toll-free 800-392-6638. The number for Good Shepherd is 641-424-1740.