The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 13, 2014

Ashtabula County Senior Center helps elderly living at home

Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — The family of an elderly couple, who were found dead in their home Sunday and apparently had been dead a number of days, are urging elderly people not to turn help away.

They don’t want the same thing to happen to another family.

David Zullo, 71, and his wife, Janet Zullo, 72, had no siblings and never had children so extended family members tried to keep an eye on them, said Flora David of Ashtabula, a cousin to David Zullo.

“They treated us so good; they always gave, but would never take anything from people,” she said. “As they got older, the more people pushed, the more they pushed us away.”

There are programs available to help senior citizens in Ashtabula County, said Lucille Hensley, executive director of the Ashtabula County Senior Center.

“If we can’t help them, we know who can,” she said. “If you need help, just pick up the phone and call us. We never turn anyone away.”

Hensley said one of the most valuable services the Senior Center offers is the Telephone Reassurance program.

The Senior Center’s Telephone Reassurance program was designed for seniors who live alone and would benefit from a daily telephone call to make sure everything is all right. In the event of an emergency, a designated contact person or emergency service technician will be dispatched.

“The volunteer makes one call, five days a week to shut-ins,” Hensley said. “Last year, she made a total of 6,600 calls. She’s a real life line.”

This free service is open to all seniors in Ashtabula County. It’s not based on financial need.

“(The volunteer) has a reassuring tone and has a personal connection with the people she calls,” Hensley said. “We get the people’s permission and we start calling them — that’s all there is to it.”

The Telephone Reassurance program has helped two people who had fallen on the floor and couldn’t get up. She also called an ambulance for someone who didn’t feel well, Hensley said.

“If they don’t answer, we’ll try back during the day,” she said. “If they still don’t answer at the end of the day, we’ll call the family contact. If no answer, we’ll call the police.”

Unfortunately, the Zullos repeatedly refused help from friends and family, David said.

Coroner’s Office Investigator Tom Dispenes said it appears the Zullos died of natural causes. Both  of them suffered from various health issues. As Janet Zullo’s health worsened, David Zullo became her caregiver. He also became more private and did not want family to visit, even refusing to open the door when they would come by, his cousin said.

When no one heard from them for a few weeks, Flora David requested a welfare check and Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Deputies discovered they had died.

“If you are offered help, take it,” she said. “Talk to family members or a trusted friend.”

Senior Center also offers the following services

• Handyman program provides minor home repair to area senior citizens at no charge. Anyone age 60 or older and lives in Ashtabula County is eligible;

• Medical equipment loans;

• Medical assessment;

• Counseling;

• Estate planning;

• Prescription pick-up and delivery;

• Hot meals with Meals on Wheels — a hot meal delivered to your door, 5 days a week, and

• Social outings, such as bingo, cards, crafts and movies.

Many of the programs are funded by the Ashtabula County Senior Services levy. For more information, call the Senior Center at 440-998-6750.

For additional help, call Ashtabula County information at 211.