Lifeline—keeping the aging and convalescing at home

(Pictured is Joyce Eli and her daughter, Judy Hastings. Staff photo by Joyce Moran)

Joyce isn’t relying on luck anymore to keep her safe. Since her recovery from the February fall, she has enrolled in the Lifeline Program. Offered by St. Gabriel’s Hospital, Lifeline equips the participant with a small wristband or necklace that contains a button. All one need do to summon help is press the button.

“The pressing of the button sends a signal to an all-automated response center at the hospital,” explained Linda Johnson, manager of the Lifeline Program. “Everything about the caller then comes up on a large screen, and the switchboard operator quickly calls the person’s home. If the caller says they need help, or if there’s no reply, the operator quickly calls a responder who is listed on that person’s data sheet. These responders always live near the individual. Generally, I’d say, they can be to the caller’s side within five minutes of when they pushed their button.”
Joyce is originally from the Hillman area where, on a farm, she raised 12 children, drove tractor, cleaned the barn and milked the cows. She’s not quite sure how many grandchildren and great- grandchildren she has, but figures the grandchildren number between 35 and 40, and the number of great grandchildren is around 15. “And, I now have one great great granddaughter,” she said. “But, I’ll have to sit down one day and figure out just how many grandchildren I actually have.”

Happy with the Lifeline Program, Joyce exclaimed, “My sister and I never knew it was available. All our lives we’ve been independent. I just detest the idea of needing help!”

While she voluntarily gave up her driver’s license a year ago, Joyce’s children do see to it that she gets out and about by driving her to their homes and different places. When at home, she likes to make quilts. To date, she’s made one for each of her children and for most of her grandchildren.

Judy Hastings, Joyce’s daughter who lives nearby, and is the first person on her Mother’s list of responders, further emphasized the peace of mind that Lifeline provides the children of participants. “I don’t have to worry now when Mom’s alone,” she explained.

Johnson also pointed out that Lifeline can be used on a temporary basis by those who may be confined at home for a period of time to recover from an illness or accident.

The local Lifeline Program was started 20 years ago. With a $5,500 grant to St. Gabriel’s Hospital Auxiliary, 15 units were purchased. Presently, with support from service organizations, the program has 170 subscribers. And, more units are available.

“A lot of people don’t know what Lifeline is,” related Johnson. “We want to get the word out about it. Yes, it can be used throughout the county. And, by anybody. Perhaps there’s someone out there recuperating from an accident and is sometimes left alone—it would be good for him or her to have one.”

The manager further pointed out that 16 to 18 volunteers keep the Lifeline Program going by making monthly test calls, doing the necessary installations, and providing the necessary clerical work.

The cost to Lifeline subscribers comes out to be about $1 a day. To help with the additional needed funding, the program will have a caramel apple booth at the Arts and Crafts Fair.

To get more information about Lifeline, or to order one, one can call Linda Johnson at 632-1113.

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