Are You Okay? Program Offers Seniors Added Security

J.D. O’Gara
101-year-old Rose Less, of Randolph, has been enrolled in “Are You Ok?”, a program of the  Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office, for many years. This free daily phone call checks on seniors and disabled citizens living alone in Norfolk County. From left, Cheryl Bambery, Deputy Sheriff/TRIAD Officer, Rose Less, and Norfolk County Sheriff Jerome McDermott.
Issue Date: 
November, 2019
Article Body: 

Cheryl Bambery estimates that she’s called Theresa Parshley, of Stoughton, 5,600 times, estimating she’s spent more time talking to Theresa than she has her own Mom. “For some people, I’m the only call they get all day or all week.”
Bambery, a Deputy Sheriff/TRIAD officer with the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office, facilitates the Are You Ok? Program, a daily telephone reassurance program facilitated by the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office and Fallon Ambulance provided 365 days a year for seniors and or people with disabilities. Those who sign up receive a monitored, automated 24-second call at a time of their choosing between 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily.
“I was one of the first ones to sign up,” says Theresa. “I thought it was a great idea. The service is free, and all you have to do is decide what time you want them to call you, and that’s it. As far as Cheryl, I feel like she’s one of the family.”
Cheryl says she gets to know “her” seniors.
“I love it. I just love talking to the seniors,” says Bambery, who tries to make a point of calling them on their birthdays. That familiarity gives her an extra sense of when something is wrong. “Nine times out of 10, I know what’s up with (them),” says Bambery, who will give a call back if she senses something isn’t right in a member’s voice. “It’s all little things. I know their inflection, if they don’t sound great. I don’t take anything for granted.”
One woman sounded off, for example, and Bambery called her back, only to find that she’d been without heat for days. Another, she says, was out of an important medication, says Bambery.
“I think with the growing baby boomer population, there’s definitely a growing need for this. It’s a layer of safety,” says Sheriff Jerome McDermott, who credits his predecessor and Bambery with initiating this program. “Not all families have the luxury of living in close proximity, and family sizes have gotten smaller over time. Some may have one child; maybe none. If they don’t have good friends or good neighbors, they may be living in isolation. This may be the only call they get during the day.”
Therese Kinnane, of Medway, is one of those who doesn’t have a lot of family. She joined the program when it just started.
“We were at a meeting in the Medway Senior Center, so I signed up, says Kinnane. “I like it. It gets me out of bed, for one reason, and I enjoy talking with (Cheryl).”
McDermott says the call can be more useful than a Life Alert, which, sometimes, an elder or someone with a disability are unable to physically operate.
“We had a case where a woman was in the tub for 11 hours, says McDermott. “The police had to go through her window.” Another woman in Franklin who didn’t answer her daily call was found with an injury after the sheriff’s office called a neighbor to check on her. Overall, the program has resulted in about 170 seniors or people with disabilities receiving emergency assistance for falls or other medical issues.
“We call you, and if you don’t answer, we call your backup person, then (if the backup person can’t reach you) – we’re not breaking down people’s doors to get in, but police will go and check, and we work with Fallon Ambulance Service. It’s a great program, and again, it’s free,” says McDermott. “It allows people to live more independently at home.”
“People don’t want to be a burden to their family and friends,” says Bambery, “but also, they’re afraid if they let their family know they need help, they’ll lose their independence.”
“I’m very thankful that I have this service,” says Parshley, who laughs about the couple of times authorities came to check up on her when she missed the call or forgot to let them know she’d be out. “It also puts my children’s mind at ease knowing I have it.”
A side bonus of the Are You Okay? Program is the friendship.
Rose Less, 101, from Randolph, looks forward to her daily call at quarter to nine each morning.
“It’s wonderful. I like having Cheryl call me,” says Rose. “When I first signed up, I was living in an apartment all alone, and I thought ‘Hey, that’s great – the idea to have somebody see if I was alive. It’s keeping tabs on me, and making sure I’m still here. It’s a great program, and I think all seniors should be interested in joining.”
On her 100th birthday, in fact, Rose got to meet Cheryl in person. “Now, I’m on my 101th birthday,” she says.
“This past birthday was the only time (Cheryl) didn’t call me personally to wish me a Happy Birthday – and she noticed and she called me and apologized. That means a great deal, to take the time to call you,” says Theresa, who, during that belated Birthday call, invited Cheryl to meet in person for the first time in 18 years.
Said Theresa, who could hardly contain her excitement, “She’s my friend.”
If you, or someone you know in the 19 cities and towns that comprise Norfolk County would be interested in this lifesaving program, please call 1-866-900-7865 to sign up.