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MARGATE - Living an independent life is often difficult for the elderly and disabled, but CONTACT Cape-Atlantic helps people living in Cape May and Atlantic Counties do exactly that with a simple phone call.

“Our Telephone Reassurance Program provides free daily telephone calls to 220 elderly and disabled individuals living in Atlantic and Cape May counties,” said Ann Magee, Executive Director of CONTACT Cape-Atlantic in an email interview. “The calls provide a friendly hello, as well as a check that all is well with the client,”

The free, daily phone call is made at a scheduled time between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. by a volunteer. If the client answers, the volunteer knows the client is doing well. If the client does not answer though, the volunteer immediately follows set procedures to ensure the well-being and safety of the client. CONTACT Cape-Atlantic provides reassurance calls 365 days a year.

“Our reassurance clients greatly appreciate the calls,” Magee said. “They like knowing that someone ... cares about them. We try to alleviate feelings of being isolated and help our clients feel that they are a part of the community.”

The inspiration for CONTACT Cape-Atlantic began in the 1960s, thousands of miles away with a crisis hotline.

This service [crisis hotline] began in 1963 in Sydney, Australia, when Dr. Alan Walker, a Methodist minister, saw the need for trained volunteers to be available by telephone 24 hours a day, according to Magee. The idea quickly spread to the United States, and in 1973 the CONTACT Cape-Atlantic crisis hotline was created.

However, after a little over 20 years, CONTACT Cape-Atlantic had to change its mission.

“In 1995, the decision was made for our agency to close the crisis line, Magee said. “We were not receiving very many calls, and staffing the crisis line with volunteers was difficult. This was a difficult decision, but enabled us to grow our Reassurance Program into a very important and successful one for our clients, volunteers and the community.”

Today, CONATCT Cape-Atlantic not only includes the Telephone Reassurance Program, but also the Gatekeeper Program.

“Our Gatekeeper Program reaches out to those in neighborhoods on a regular basis, to educate them on the signs and symptoms that an elderly person may need some help,” said Magee. “Short presentations have been provided to UPS, COMCAST, banks, NJ American Water Co. and meter readers.”

Magee is adamant that there are many ways for people to help and volunteer with CONTACT Cape-Atlantic. They are always looking for volunteers and schedules are flexible. If someone cannot volunteer, then perhaps they can help through a fundraiser. CONTACT Cape-Atlantic’s current fundraiser is $10 Christmas ornaments designed by MudGirls Studios of Atlantic City. They also send out a monthly newsletter with the latest updates and further fundraising opportunities.

For more information on CONATCT Cape-Atlantic, including viewing and buying a Christmas ornament, please visit its website at www.contactcapeatlantic.org.

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