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Living independently despite blindness


A daily call from Red Cross gives Mavis confidence, knowing that if something were to happen to her Red Cross would raise the alarm.

Mavis is one of the many vulnerable people picking up the phone to a Red Cross volunteer every morning checking she's ok. "Red Cross rings me every morning between eight and half-past-eight and we just have a short chat. It's very nice to have that first talk in the morning with somebody, it's a good start to the day," says Mavis.

Mavis is 91 and lives by herself in the home she built with her late husband 47 years ago. A few years ago Mavis suffered a haemorrhage behind her eyes and lost all her near sight. The daily call from Red Cross is one of the services that help her remain independent and at home in comfortable surrounds. Despite her limited vision and age Mavis is enjoys her independence and still cooks all her own meals.

For some people, a daily phone call from Red Cross is the only conversation they'll have all day.

"My idea is you do as much as you can for yourself, which is something. It gives you a feeling that you're doing something," says Mavis. "I can't do anymore sewing or knitting or anything like that but I still manage to do my cooking. I like cooking and so I'm always interested in doing that."

Cooking is a hobby Mavis enjoys yet it may not be possible if she were forced to move into supported accommodation. Her familiarity with her kitchen means she can easily find her way around even if she can't things well.

The last one, left alone

Late last year Mavis's only son died suddenly. It was a terrible shock to have to bury her son, the last remaining family member who regularly visited her. Through grieving tears Mavis recalls, "There are some things that are very hard to live with. But I have three married grandchildren. They all live up in Queensland, and I've got two great grandsons. That's all that's left of the family, I'm the last one." Her grandchildren call her occasionally but they all live in Queensland and have busy lives and the distance means that they simply can't visit enough to care for Mavis.

A call each day to check you're ok

Around 5000 Australians receive a phone call each day from Red Cross with volunteers making almost two million phone calls each year. In the past year Red Cross took action to help almost 800 people who were ill or injured and did not answer their daily call. For 34 clients, who were found to be deceased, Red Cross helped give them dignity in death by ensuring somebody knew.

Red Cross volunteers have been calling people each day to check they are OK for four decades. Ian Coverdale, National Manager for Social Inclusion, says it's a simple service that has been operating in much the same way for its entire history. "Something as simple as a daily phone call can give people who live alone confidence to remain independent and daily human contact that for some is the only conversation they'll have all day," he says.

When asked if there is anything else she wanted to say about the Red Cross service, Mavis replied, "Red Cross are very exceptional people. They do so much for so many people, they're so good with their services and what they can offer and I think people should support them as much as they can."

Read more about Red Cross services for vulnerable older people.



Photo: Australian Red Cross/Rodney Dekker