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"Without Red Cross I'd be dead long ago"

Retired engineer and naval officer Milton Morris has absolutely no doubts about the value of receiving his daily call from Red Cross Telecross volunteers.

"It's saved my life twice now," the sprightly 86 year-old says. "It's absolutely essential to being able to live on my own at home."

Milton has been receiving daily calls for almost six years. The free service provides daily phone calls to check on the wellbeing of people who are at risk of an accident or illness that may go unnoticed.

Milton says the first time it saved his life was several years ago. He had collapsed and fallen inside his unit in the Perth suburb of Innaloo. Even though he had an emergency alarm around his neck he was unable to press the button. He says when the daily arrived at the appointed time, he had revived enough to be able to take the call and tell his caller he was in strife.

Telecross activated the emergency procedure which saw an ambulance being sent immediately to his unit. Milton was taken to hospital where he was successfully treated and allowed to return home.

Then earlier this year, Milton suffered another collapse at home. He was unconscious, and his daily Telecross call went unanswered. The trained volunteer activated his agreed emergency procedure and arranged help - in Milton's case his neighbour was asked to check in and called an ambulance.

"The ambulance came and scraped me up and they took me up to the Beverley Hospital and I was transferred to a larger regional hospital."

Without Telecross I'd have been dead long ago. It's enabled me to live at least another six years in my own home.

Milton was seriously ill and remained unconscious for several hours. After being successfully treated, he eventually returned home.

Milton says living at home is very important to him.

"I lived for three years in a retirement home. Of 160 people in there you could only talk to five or six. I had no intention of becoming a zombie so I got out of it and moved to the country.

"I'm not a burden on the family. It helps them no end knowing I've got Telecross.

"They ring me at 7.30 each morning. I look forward to it. I wait for it," he says.

Telecross began more than 40 years ago as a telephone club in Adelaide and it's now grown to a national service that calls 5300 people 365 days of the year. In the past year Red Cross has helped almost 10 per cent of these who were ill or injured and did not answer their Red Cross phone call.

Thousands more were supported to live independently in the familiar and comfortable surrounds of their own home, knowing that if something should happen, Red Cross would send someone to check on them. Not only do the calls provide security, they also provide a human voice, which for many will be the only conversation they have all day.

Telecross allows people to live independently for longer in their own homes, giving them and their loved ones peace of mind they are connected to a daily lifeline. Telecross also brings a degree of companionship, contributing to a decrease in the sense of isolation many people experience.

Milton says he's been living alone since his wife died as a result of trauma she experienced when the home they bought for their retirement was destroyed by Cyclone Vance in 1999.

And he says much of the reason why he is able to continue to live independently is due to the service.

"Whenever there's been a problem it's been solved over the phone without any hassles. I ring Red Cross and it's solved straight away."

Photo: Sarah Landro/Australian Red Cross

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