By Jessica Tuggle
MARTIN COUNTY -- A phone call a day could save someone's life.
The nonprofit 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast operates a free "Sunshine" daily telephone reassurance program for isolated and vulnerable senior citizens, those ages 60 and older, or individuals that are homebound.
With a "Good morning, how are you?" phone call, volunteers, not automated voice recordings, at 211 can check on the well-being of seniors in the program and provide them with some company, even if it's just through a short phone call, said Patrice Schroeder, community relations specialist with the local 211.
The reality is that some seniors live alone, or live with other elderly caregivers and have no one checking on their welfare. There have been recorded cases in South Florida were seniors were discovered long deceased in their homes, she said.
With the daily call, if someone does have a medical emergency, or does pass away, the volunteers can send out emergency responders to check on them, Ms. Schroeder said.
For some seniors, the phone call is a way for them to be assured someone will know what is going on inside their home if they are homebound. For others, it's a check-up to make sure they made it through the night OK and are ready to take on the day with a variety of activities outside of the house, Ms. Schroeder said.
About 450 clients are registered for the free program in Palm Beach and Martin counties.
Since December 2012, 211 has recorded three lives saved by the morning call, Ms. Schroeder said.
Norman (whose last name was not provided by 211) answered his phone call as usual, but the cadence and clarity of his speech was definitely unusual, said staff member Rosalie DeLibero in a press release.
While keeping their client on the line, the volunteers and staff at 211 called emergency responders to Norman's house and it was determined he was having a stroke. Norman was able to receive medical attention and rehab.
"I would not be here if it weren't for my Sunshine call. They did a great job and covered all the bases," Norman said in a press release.
The free daily call program is not designed for clients with dementia or Alzheimer's who could be confused at who is calling them, Ms. Schroeder said.
The 211 Helpline uses volunteers and some paid staff to handle the wide variety of calls for crisis intervention, suicide prevention, information, assessment and referral to community services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The Sunshine program has been in use in Palm Beach and Martin counties for more than 25 years and has recently added Indian River County to its qualifying seniors list. Expansion into St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties is desired in the future, Ms. Schroeder said.
For more information about the Sunshine Helpline or any other services by 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast, dial 211 or visit www.211treasurecoast.org.