By Colin Hogan
Now in it’s fourth year, the “I’m Okay” program at Fulton Mills Apartments is helping independently-living elderly and disabled residents look out for one another’s well being.
Through the “I’m Okay” program, participating residents are given a sign to place on their door every morning to let their neighbors know they’re up and around for the day. Each morning, a team of about three or four volunteers from each floor goes around to look for signs.
“We have a group of residents who, every morning at 10 o’clock, go around and check the doors, seven days a week,” said Hughes.
If someone hasn’t put out the sign, the volunteer who is checking will knock.
“Usually they answer,” Hughes said, “but if not, they come down and tell us in the office and then we call up to the apartment.”
If the resident still isn’t answering, Hughes or another member of the office staff then calls the resident’s emergency contact. Often enough, the resident had an appointment or an event planned, Hughes said, and left the facility early without remembering to put out the sign.
“Worst case scenario, if we still don’t know, we’ll go into the apartment and check ourselves,” Hughes said.
Staff then call 911 if there is an emergency.
Years back, the facility housed a resident who had a medical emergency, but wasn’t able to call for help. He went days unnoticed suffering in his apartment. Resident Services Coordinator Linda Hughes says that’s when her predecessor decided something needed to be done, and conceived the “I’m Okay” program.
“She realized that we needed something so this wouldn’t happen again, so she partnered with the Red Cross and Catholic Charities and the “I’m Okay” program was developed,” Hughes said.
Catholic Charities provided the facility with door hangers for the signs, and Red Cross representatives came in to train monitors on how to check on their neighbors, and they return every few months to do continued training.
Hughes said there have been “several times” since the program’s inception in which it has helped someone who was suffering but was unable to call for help.
“We’ve found people who have been going through a lot of pain, who might not otherwise have gotten the care they needed as quickly as they needed it,” she said.
Hughes said the approach is designed to ensure that everyone living in the facility is safe and kept track of, and to reduce a sense of panic or emergency during moments of uncertainty, all while allowing residents to maintain their own independence.
On Wednesday, the team of volunteer residents who routinely make their rounds to check for door signs were honored in a special ceremony by their neighbors, Fulton Mills staff, representatives from the Red Cross and Catholic Charities, and city officials.
“We just really want them to see that what they do is appreciated, and want people to see how important it is that they’re doing this,” Hughes said.
By Colin Hogan