County program asks, ‘Are You Okay?’
NORTH EAST — It can be a scary world outside, especially for anyone who is disabled, homebound or infirm. That’s why it’s comforting to know programs like Are You Okay? are available through the Dutchess County Division of Aging and the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office.
The program provides a safety net for vulnerable county residents who are elderly, or in case of illness, accidental injury or crime who are in danger of being left alone and unaided for an unknown length of time. It does so by prearranging a specific time each and every day for a computerized call to check in on the subscriber. If the person doesn’t answer after 15 minutes, their emergency contact list is retrieved and emergency calls are dispatched by the sheriff’s office. A friend or relative, designated by the subscriber, then goes to check on a participant’s condition. If neither friend nor family is available, a police officer will make the visit. The goal is to ensure that an emergency situation does not go unattended.
“It’s free, it’s easy and it might just save your life,” said Dutchess County Division of Aging Services Director Mary Kaye Dolan. “Many people worry about what could happen if they fall or pass out and are unable to contact 911 or even use a Personal Emergency Response unit, if they have one. With the Are You Okay? program, the sheriff’s office’s computer system calls the participant at the same time every day, and if there is no response, action is taken.”
That type of insurance is priceless, Dolan said, especially during this time of year. Below freezing temperatures and waist-high mounds of snow make it difficult for the elderly and disabled to get around, so they are especially dependent on others to communicate with the outside world. And if something were to happen to them inside their homes, it could be days before their neighbors, friends or family might notice they’re not out and about.
“It is not only potentially dangerous and unhealthy for anyone to be isolated and lacking socialization and contact with others, but it is especially so for seniors who live alone,” Dolan said. “Enrolling with Are You Okay? is just one step in ensuring an isolated senior’s safety. There are several other programs that can also help, but we should all be checking on our vulnerable neighbors, especially during the extreme cold or hot weather.”
Are You Okay? is absolutely free of charge to anyone who is disabled, homebound or infirm. There is no age requirement. The signup process is simple; there is an interview form online at co.dutchess.ny.us/CountyGov/Departments/Sheriffruokfiff.pdf or one can call Aging Services at 845-486-2555 to have a form mailed to them. Once completed, forms are forwarded to the sheriff’s office to be inputted into the system.
In addition to the Are You Okay? program, there are other services that can be helpful to isolated seniors.
The Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office can provide seniors with a free cell phone that can be used both inside and outside the home in the event of an emergency. These phones are only able to call 911 and will not work for other calls. Call Lynn Vecchio at 845-486-3839 for more information and to receive a phone.
The Friends of Seniors Program can provide telephone reassurance to homebound seniors through the efforts of their trained volunteers. The service is free of charge and partially funded by the Division of Aging Services. Clients’ needs are assessed for either daily telephone contact or a weekly social call. This program is also in need of additional volunteers to continue providing this service. To get assistance or to volunteer, Friends of Seniors can be reached at 845-485-1277.
Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) link clients to assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Some of these systems require an installation charge and they all have a monthly service fee. A Dutchess NY Connects intake worker can answer any questions a senior or caregiver may have regarding PERS by calling 845-486-2555.