Having your kids fly the coop and move away is normal, but that doesn’t lessen the loneliness that often sets in. Luckily for Graham County seniors, they can rely on SEACUS.
SouthEastern Arizona Community Unique Services has been calling roughly 150 seniors every day since April to see if they are well.
“If they don’t answer, we might have to call an emergency contact, and if they’re saying something concerning, we do that too,” said Stephanie Nabor, SEACUS director.
The nonprofit organization began making the calls about a month after COVID-19 struck the area. Forced to reduce the number of times per week Meals on Wheels were delivered, SEACUS knew they needed to figure out a way to increase interaction, Nabor said.
After some consideration, the SEACUS group decided to make daily calls to seniors in their program.
Sharon Valencia, SEACUS meals program manager, is one of the people who makes the calls.
“I think it’s really important because sometimes these people don’t have a family member in town. When you grow up and leave home you’re not going to check on mom and dad every day,” Valencia said. “So it helps us to contact them and let them know something is going on with Mom or Dad and you need to check on them. It’s sad that we’re so busy nowadays, but that is the way life goes now.”
She said sometimes seniors are quick to answer the phone, answer the questions and hang up. However, sometimes after a couple of questions, they want to chat.
“It’s definitely helping. They enjoy the calls. Most of them are really thankful. Some of them say, ‘You’re the only one who ever calls me.’ I think they appreciate knowing that at least we care enough to check on them daily. We get that a lot,” Valencia said.
Safford resident Patsy Short, 79, greatly appreciates the Meals on Wheels program and SEACUS’s other programs. However, she also likes having someone to visit with, and SEACUS has stepped up to do that, too.
“I so appreciate having someone to talk to. It’s not a long conversation, but it’s a voice,” Short said. “I also enjoy the girls that come to clean because I have a human being to talk to. They come once a week and it’s wonderful.”
For Short, SEACUS has been a wonderful help ever since she first signed up for the program in 2016 and needed a new type of wheelchair.
“I needed a transport chair. I have a power chair, but my daughter’s car isn’t equipped to hold it,” she said. “SEACUS helped me get a transport chair that was lightweight so it could fit in the car.”
When it comes to SEACUS, Short said she can’t sing enough praises.
“If you need help, they are the place to go. They are excellent. I’ve not had anything but good experiences with the staff. Everyone is really helpful,” she said.
Although it doesn’t alleviate loneliness, there’s another program in Graham County that checks in on seniors.
The Are You OK? program was created in 2007 by the Graham County Sheriff’s Office.
Vulnerable individuals within the community who sign up for the program receive a daily automated phone call at a prearranged time and if they don’t answer the phone, the emergency contact of that person is notified and a law enforcement officer is sent to check on the individual.
Scott Howell, communications supervisor for the dispatch office, said only one person is using the Are You OK? program right now.
“We’re definitely open to having more people join. I’d hate to have people living alone fall and not be able to call for help and lay on the floor for days until somebody finds them. Sometimes that happens. With this program, someone will call and check on them once every day,” Howell said.