, Salem, MA

October 4, 2013

Worried hairdresser spurs rescue of elderly client

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — MARBLEHEAD — She never missed her weekly hair appointment.

So, when the 82-year-old woman didn’t show up for her regular 3 p.m. appointment at Boston Hair Salon on Pleasant Street last Thursday, Lisa Buswell called the house. There was no answer.

Buswell has been seeing the woman on the same day, at the same time, every week for the past seven years. She was typically on time and would tell Buswell when she would be out of town.

“I got a little concerned, so I called her several times,” Buswell said, “and there was no answer.”

So, she called a former neighbor of the woman, Wilbur Bassett Jr., and asked if he could swing by and see if the woman’s car was in the driveway. It was.

“I said there was something terribly wrong,” Buswell said. “You have to get in.”

Bassett tried getting into the house from the garage but had no luck. He went to the back of the house and found the kitchen door unlocked.

“I walked into the house and yelled, and she yelled back,” Bassett said. “She said, ‘I’m at the bottom of the stairway.’ I knew something was wrong.”

She had fallen down the stairs the day before, Buswell said, and had lain there for 29 hours with a fractured leg and hip and broken ribs. Bassett called 911.

Police responded to the woman’s Girdler Road home at 4:43 p.m., and paramedics took her to Salem Hospital, where she is recovering from surgery. She did not want to comment for this story.

“She was in pretty bad shape,” said Buswell, 42, who has lived in town her whole life and has been a hairstylist for 26 years. She bought Boston Hair Salon about a year ago.

Police Chief Robert Picariello said seniors typically have routines, as this woman did, and it’s worth checking in if they don’t show up for something. He recommended calling police if anything seems wrong.

“We are always happy to go check on something,” he said. “We would rather go to the door and find out nothing is wrong than find out they needed our help.”

Teri Allen McDonough, director of the Council on Aging, said her staff works closely with police and fire to address any safety issues for seniors.

She said an outreach professional can schedule a visit to talk about recommendations for safety, including Lifeline medical necklaces and Lo-Jack safety net. There are also forms that can be filled out for their homes and cars that are helpful to first responders and include emergency contacts, medical conditions and medicines.

McDonough agreed with Picariello that neighbors and relatives should check in on the elderly regularly.

This is a message Buswell would like to help spread. After her experience, she said, she’s learned how important it is for people to watch out for older neighbors, friends and family.

“I knew she didn’t have any kids to check up on her, and she is alone,” Buswell said. “She is 82 years old; anything can happen.”

Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.