6 unattended elderly deaths in June alone in Ozark County; sheriff says be a good neighbor

Source: Ulrich Joho / CC BY-SA 2.0
Source: Ulrich Joho / CC BY-SA 2.0(KVLY)
Published: Jul. 9, 2019 at 3:31 PM CDT
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Many of the houses across the Ozarks are pretty rural, but the Ozark County sheriff says that is not the only reason why neighbors are not checking on neighbors often enough.

Sheriff Darrin Reed says the numbers for a small county his size-- are very alarming. Six people-- just in the month of June alone-- have been found dead inside their home. He says many had been deceased for weeks, possibly even months, simply because no one had checked on them, or even called them. Now, many in the community are on a mission to change that.

"I'm going to get old one of these days, but not today. I'm too busy," said Paralee Rea. She is 88 and has earned the right to be a straight shooter.

"Get your head out of the cell phone, get your head out of the computer and television, and check on your neighbors!" she said.

Paralee lives by her own advice, and she's also glad someone checks on her, especially after two serious falls.

"I got a concussion on my head the last fall I had because I rolled around and my head hit the bumper of my truck," Rea said laughing at herself. "I'm a survivor."

She volunteers at the local Senior Age center calling home bound elderly.

"Most people are just one incident away from being there... and a little extra help to stay in the home keeps them from the nursing home," said Treva Warrick, who organizes home visits, meals, fans and more for the elderly. She loves her job at the Gainesville Senior Age center.

Sheriff Reed often tells folks he runs into to give Treva a call, but many don't. He says that's where the community can help-- and should step in, he says.

"We went on a well-being check a couple weeks ago where a gentleman had been down on the floor and God only knows how long he'd been in the floor and I could hear him moaning from outside the house and we ended up breaking a window and getting in and getting him medical help, but another few more hours had went by, and he would not have made it," Sheriff Reed said.

Sadly, Clinkingbeard Funeral Home says it, too, sees it all too often.

Half a dozen elderly folks were there in June-- deceased-- with family members hard to find.

"It's hard whenever we go out and we come back to the funeral home and we really don't know where to go," said Gene Britt with Clinkingbeard. "We're kind of at a standstill until someone contacts us. In a small community like ours, we pride ourselves on being good neighbors."

"It's nice to have neighbors that check on me all the time," said Paralee. "Now go check on your neighbor. Haha."

If you have a loved one who you want checked on-- or if you yourself want someone to check on you-- there is a "telephone reassurance" program at Senior Age. They also need volunteers to make phone calls to check on people. If you want to get on that list, or if you can volunteer, call them at 417-679-4746 in Gainesville. There are also Senior Age centers in almost every Ozarks county that you can contact for similar programs.