Falmouth program monitors elderly residents
FALMOUTH —The heavy, wet snow that characterized the Sunday, Feb. 22 storm incapacitated many businesses, closed schools and delayed residents by knocking out power to much of the area.
It also came close to taking the life of a Falmouth resident.
After losing her power that Sunday evening, a 102-year-old Falmouth woman fell in the darkness. Unable to get up and with no one to help her, she lay overnight on the floor, growing steadily colder and weaker without any heat or blankets to warm her.
But the woman survived because of the Falmouth Police Department's Reassurance Program.
Since 1991, the local service has monitored elderly residents who live alone by having them call in daily by 9 a.m. "If we don't hear from them, we send an officer," Lt. John Kilbride said.
In this case, when they failed to reach the woman by phone, the department dispatched Officer Dean Mazziotti to check on her.
After he knocked on the front door without success, Mazziotti walked around the house, climbed over snowbanks and peered through her windows. He finally spotted her on the floor.
"She moved her arm and I called dispatch," he said. "I broke out the back window; she was somewhat conscious but cold to the touch. That reassurance check really did make a difference."
The woman was rushed to the hospital but has recuperated and is now back in her home.
This is the fourth time since its inception that the service has helped save a life. And this latest incident has once again highlighted the program's importance and the need for people to sign up, Kilbride said.
As many as 15 residents have been a part of the program in the past, but right now there are only eight.
"I want to expand that," Kilbride said.
The free service is confidential and it only takes a few minutes to register. Participants are asked to list contact information for next of kin, current medications and hospital preference. If they are unable to come to the station, they can mail the registration or an officer can pick it up.
"We feel it's a very important program; we're in the process of reaching out to elderly-based communities to make sure they know we have something like this," Kilbride said. "We find for children who live out of state and have a single parent in Falmouth that this gives them peace of mind."
Falmouth resident Anne Fields has been part of the program for close to a year. She appreciates the comfort of having someone looking out for her and the knowledge that she can call the department at any time.
"I tell some people I know in Windham about this program and they just can't believe it," she said.
Sometimes she forgets to call in. When that happens, she said, she gets a call from them. "If I don't answer, they come by and look for me."
Former dispatch supervisor and current Deputy Town Clerk Carol Kloth started the program in response to a suggestion by former resident Gerry Whitehouse.
"He had belonged to it in Massachusetts and he thought we should start it here," Kloth said.
Kloth's involvement includes throwing a yearly Christmas party at her home for all the participants, an event Fields said is "wonderful."
In fact, when Kloth transferred to the clerk's office, she made sure she would be allowed to continue her relationship with those in the Reassurance Program.
"This year, we're going to do a summer cookout," she said.
But whether it's for the parties or for the peace of mind, Kilbride hopes residents will call him at 781-2300 for more information or to sign up for this monitoring service.
"This is near and dear to my heart," Kilbride said. "The vision of someone being on the floor and no one knowing about it is upsetting."
Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.