Richard’s Almanac: Seniors stay safe by staying connected



The news on the Island last week about the elderly retired Episcopal priest who was critically injured as the result of what was described as a “possible home invasion,” was unnerving to many Islanders.

Various news reports said that he was alone and bound for an unspecified amount of time and was not discovered until Monday, after he did not show up for an obligation.

This scenario could happen to anyone living alone, not just senior citizens, without various checks in place. The reason we mention seniors is that because of advanced age and some levels of infirmity, we’re more apt to find ourselves in bad situations after a slip and a fall.

I remember a situation some years ago — I was not officially a senior yet — when I was juggling two laundry baskets down the stairs and slipped, hitting my head on the corner of the newel post. I remember blood being everywhere and Hank, my loyal husky dog at the time, was concerned enough to lick my blood from the floor and my face. He did not, however, run and get someone to help like in the movies. He just stayed with me.

I remember thinking that if I passed out, I would not be found for some time. Even though my daughter lived nearby, she did not keep track of my every move.

But I was fortunate. I regained my composure, grabbed a towel from the bathroom and placed it on my wounded head. Then I called my daughter. She dropped everything, and with her baby in tow, took me to Dr. Marshall’s office.

I was stitched up, examined and sent home.

I’m careful not to carry more than one laundry basket at a time, and I’m still trying to design a laundry chute that would go from the bedroom to the cellar.

But what would have happened if I had passed out?

I know that we cannot prevent every unfortunate situation, but we can do our best to be prepared.

For those of us who live alone and have an infirmity, it’s a good idea to have one of those electronic emergency gadgets that can summon help with the press of a button. There are many different brands on the market. Some only work indoors while others work wherever you are. They include “Life Alert,” “MobileHelp” and “MedicalAlert.”

The Senior Citizen Foundation of Shelter Island helps residents acquire these devices and in cases where there is financial need will underwrite the cost. Check with Laurie Fanelli at the Senior Center. She’ll send you in the right direction. Laurie can also help get you on the phone-check list. This service is provided by volunteers to check on seniors living alone. It involves a phone call a day.

So even though you may not become a victim of a home invasion, you still should have someone who knows where you are. If you’re going away for a while or even a few days, let someone know. And do not forget to stop newspaper delivery. It’s so easy and so accurate.

And if you are alone, avoid risky activities around the house, particularly those involving ladders. If you are going to undertake a painting project — inside or outside — make sure someone else is around. Hire a helper. Or just sit back and let a pro do it. Tree work also falls into this category.

I was just interrupted by a phone call — it was my son from Jersey, “Just checking up, Dad.”