Reassurance: The Need

CONTACT U.S.A is known for its crisis work with suicide and crisis hotlines. But there is another service the organization offers that is a little less known. Specifically for the East Tennessee branch, we have CONTACT Reassurance. This is a program that has trained volunteers make daily calls to elderly and the homebound to chat and assure their safety.

CONTACT Reassurance has a vision:

Our vision to build a world where older adults and the homebound remain safe and have someone who really listens.

CONTACT Reassurance has a mission:

Our mission is to help older adults maintain an independent living status and reduce their social isolation.

We feel strongly about the safety and care of seniors and wish to make a difference in the elderly community. The 2010 U.S. Census reported 17.4% of Anderson County residents were 65 or older. That percentage increased to 19.7% by 2016. The U.S. Census projects the number of people aged 65+ in Tennessee will rise 46% over the next 15 years. These percentages will continue to climb as the “Baby Boomer” generation ages.

It’s not difficult to understand most of the population would prefer to age in their own homes, maintaining their independence. But safety concerns, coupled with social isolation, threaten the capacity of seniors to live independently.

This is where CONTACT Reassurance comes in.

A daily call from a caring volunteer provides a cheerful social connection, and a report for the elderly individual’s safety.

Safety Concerns:

This confidential service provides safety checks for those in need. CONTACT is concerned for the health of seniors, as their risk increases. Physiological changes related to aging include but are not limited to: visual and hearing loss, declines in touch and sensation, and muscular-skeletal changes. Mental and cognitive changes can include: an increase in depression and anxiety, higher levels of suicidal thought, loss of memory, and slowed cognition.

Here’s a quick resource to help decrease safety risks in senior’s homes

Even if we simply provide a medication reminder, we know we are making a difference in someone’s health.

Social Isolation:

As one ages, physical health risks increase. This requires frequent visits to doctors and specialists. But what if this is the only time an elderly individual interacts with anyone that day? Research shows loneliness and social isolation are also important health risks to seniors. The loss of friends and loved ones, especially one’s spouse, can exponentially raise loneliness.

Raising awareness for the social needs of elderly and the homebound is the first step to eliminating the problem. The Reassurance Program uses daily outbound calls to reduce this isolation, as well as making the crisis lines available to older adults in need. Even if the conversation is short and/or the individual’s health might prevent them from responding in depth, we know that they appreciate us as much as we appreciate them.

Yes, it is my job is to be the Reassurance Program Coordinator, but I still make reassurance calls myself. Why? Because I love it. I love hearing about the “little” things from my older friends: gardening tips, the principles of house shoes, the next best Westerns I should watch, carving walking sticks, stories from careers and past lives, the list goes on and on.

CONTACT has provided these Reassurance services since 2008, and we do not plan on stopping anytime soon.

by: Meredith Denney, some previous research by David Savoie

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