When Maureen Stephen’s husband passed away the fear of her cat eating her if she died in her sleep prompted her sign up for the Red Cross telechat program.
The program sees volunteers provide daily welfare phone calls to the elderly but little did Maureen, 77, know she would make a lifelong friend.
“My husband passed away on the 21st of March 2014 and 18 months before that we rescued this pussy cat from the vets,” she said.
“He is locked in of a night and I’ve had a stroke, so I worked it out with my husband that if I passed away before him he would have vita-call (emergency buzzer).
“When he passed away I thought for the pussy cat’s sake we needed to organise something in case I passed away of a night.
“I think for a lot of old people that's the main concern. What would happen to my little friend if I passed away?”
At 7:30am each day Maureen receives a phone call from a trained volunteer who checks on her welfare. Then, they send a text message to a Red Cross community program officer to let them know she is okay.
“Some of the telechat workers have a chat and some just say ‘good morning, how are you’,” Maureen said.
“When you have had a hard night it is really nice to hear a friendly voice each morning.”
I'd not long lost my mum and I thought it might be nice to do.- Nara Ballhouse
The daily human contact the phone calls provide is important for Maureen.
The Conjola Park resident’s house is surrounded by busy families and holidays houses and fears her passing could go unnoticed.
”Everyone has their own life so they wouldn't know if I am alive or dead,” she said.
“The time goes past so quickly and sometimes your family won't realise but they won’t have called for a couple of weeks.
“If I had a stroke in the middle of the night and couldn't press it [my vita-call] no one would know. My cat would be locked inside and probably end up eating me. He weighs 10 kilograms.”
Red Cross member Nara Ballhouse, 68, was at a monthly meeting when she heard about the Community Visitors Scheme volunteer program.
“It came up at one of the meetings that they needed volunteers, I'd not long lost my mum and I thought it might be nice to do,” she said.
“They try and match you with someone they think you'd be compatible with.
“It’s a good community service, I think it’s wonderful and I look forward it.
“It gets to the point where we have been yacking for ages and I think ‘oh I need to go’.”
Nara has been visiting Maureen fortnightly for just over two years and the pair has grown into lifelong friends.
“I hear when Nara has been away, I hear what she has been up to,” Maureen said.
“It's really about someone keeping an eye on you. Do I look right, do I sound alright, am I depressed?
“She comes every few weeks and I really look forward to it. She is just like someone I would normally be friends with.”
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