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Safe and sound thanks to Red Cross


Isobel signed up to receive a daily call from Red Cross to give her the confidence to remain living independently in her own home. Little did she know that a few months later it would be her lifeline, after she fell through a glass door and lay injured and unable to call for help.

Months before her accident, Isobel was diagnosed with severe arthritis and was advised to sign up to receive a daily phone call from Red Cross, to check on her welfare. Red Cross provides daily phone calls to people who are isolated and at risk of an accident or illness that may go unnoticed. If the call goes unanswered Red Cross run an emergency activation process to make sure the person is ok. The calls support people to continue to live in their own homes, providing peace of mind and a friendly voice to speak to each morning.

Isobel says she feels wonderful after hanging up the phone with Red Cross each morning. "I just feel very happy that you've had somebody that cares about somebody else and they're only too happy to help people."

Isobel is a chatty and cheerful woman who says she wants to remain independent and living in her own home. "I wouldn't want to move. I like living here and I can still look after myself and cook my meals."

Despite being able to care for herself at home, the risk of an injury or illness does weigh heavily on Isobel. "I wouldn't ever like to be living at home now without getting those phone calls," she says.

If I didn't get my Red Cross call it might have been a week or more before anyone noticed - I might have passed away.

Advocacy groups for older people, such as The Council for the Aged (COTA) and peak bodies such as Aged and Community Services Australia, say older people want to remain living at home for as long as possible. There is also research, including a study published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal), which shows that older people report higher levels of health and wellbeing when they are able to live safely at home and are physically and socially active.

For Isobel, living at home means friendships and activities that help her to maintain her health and wellbeing. "I've got a dear friend of mine that lives over the road there," says Isobel. "And then I love my garden." These are some of the social contacts and activities that Isobel could lose if she had to move from her own home.

Last year 7600 people were supported through Telecross to live independently in the familiarity of their own homes, knowing that if something should happen, Red Cross would contact someone to check on them. For 800 people who receive calls and became ill or injured, Red Cross was able to raise the alarm - in some cases making the difference between life and death.

This was the case for Isobel, who says she thought she might die had it not been for the missed phone call from Red Cross. Her fall left her stranded on the floor with shards of glass in her back and no way to reach the phone.

"I hit the glass door and everything and the glass went into my back," says Isobel. She was severely injured, unable to get up and stranded on the other side of the door from the phone. "The glass was all jagged there and I couldn't climb through, I would have been cut to pieces."

"My bedroom door was open and I tried to bang on the door to attract the people next door and I was trying to sing out to them," continues Isobel. "I did that for three hours and nobody came."

Isobel describes her fears of dying alone and injured on her kitchen floor. "I was feeling very frightened and I didn't know how I'd go," she says. "I was just hoping and praying that somebody would come to my rescue because I knew that I wouldn't be able to stand another day on the floor. I thought I might die."

Isobel doesn't remember the phone ringing but she does remember her friend and neighbour coming in search of her and the fire brigade, police and ambulance that arrived to rescue her.

"If I didn't get my Red Cross call it might have been a week or more before anyone noticed - I might have passed away," says Isobel.

Red Cross operates call centres and bases where more than 3000 volunteers are trained and make calls to vulnerable people all over Australia. The staff who train and support the volunteers are also trained to manage the 9000 activations that occur each year when people don't answer their calls. In the majority of cases the person is found safe and sound but for those who are ill or injured, these dedicated staff are their lifeline to the help they need.

Isobel knows first hand the importance of the training and work that goes into the service and encourages people to support Red Cross to continue its everyday work. "Donate, because it's to a very good cause," she says.

She would also encourage anyone who lives alone, who is at risk of a sudden accident or illness to sign up to receive calls from Red Cross. "I would certainly recommend it to people because it's just so wonderful to think that you've got a service like that," says Isobel. She worries about what would happen to someone who had an accident like hers and wasn't getting the daily phone calls. "Like how I was on the floor thereā€¦ I wouldn't want that to happen to anybody else," she says.