by Sarah Squires
Winona Health Auxiliary Telecare program helps people who live alone rest easier
They might be all alone.
It could be your mother, your daughter or brother. It could be you.
And when you or a loved one live alone, especially with medical or other special needs, a daily phone call just to see how things are doing can be a literal lifesaver.
Winona Health Auxiliary has hosted a volunteer program called Telecare for more than 30 years, providing daily phone calls for people who might need a checkup, or even just a friendly voice to chat with each morning.
"I know it's been a model for other auxiliaries," said Autumn Herber, volunteer service coordinator at Winona Health. She said the program has been going strong for years, and that it currently serves more than 50 clients.
"People use Telecare for a number of reasons," said Herber. A person might have medical conditions, her children might worry and not be able to call as much as they'd like.
"Sometimes it's just having that friendly voice to talk to," she said. "Some of our clients might not get any other phone calls during the day; that might be their only contact."
The calls are free for people who live in the Winona Health service area, and Herber said that a client can choose to be called every day, or every weekday, or any days he or she might choose.
The service also provides something for the volunteer callers, said Herber, adding that the auxiliary hosts two parties each year for volunteers and clients to meet. "The relationships they've built, they feel like the clients become part of their families," she said.
Arlene Neitzke has been volunteering as a caller for three years, and says the program has added to her life, too. So far, she's worked with more than 100 clients, and gotten to know about them and their families.
"We get to know all about them," said Neitzke. "They tell us about their families; they tell us about what they're going to do during the day. We do get to know them, because they talk to us; it's a conversation."
Neitzke said that when she's done with her calls each morning, she hopes she's really brought some cheer into her clients' lives. "It makes me feel as though I'm providing a very much needed service," she said. "I think that they very often look forward to our calls because this is their opportunity to talk to someone, someone that they know," Neitzke continued. "They get to know your voice, and you get to know theirs. It's a feel-good situation."
Herber said that the Telecare program has really helped people in the past. A person who might have fallen and hurt themselves might not find help for hours, or even days, without the program. If a client doesn't answer the routine call, a preset designated contact person is called for a checkup, meaning that if a dangerous situation occurs, it might be the first warning flag.
The phone calls are typically delivered from 8 a.m. until about 10 a.m., and anyone can sign up for the program by calling 457-4316.