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Lifeline provides a sense of ease

Lifeline provides a sense of ease

Ray Hendrickson lives alone, but he knows help is as close as the button he wears around his neck.

The Medford man subscribes to Lifeline, an emergency medical alarm service that sends help whenever someone pushes the panic button.

I'm 91 and I don't get around very good, Hendrickson says. I walk with a walker, and I have (the alarm) in case I fall. I carry it around my neck all the time.

Hendrickson pushed his button not long ago when he fell.

I just couldn't get my legs under me to save my neck, he recalls. They called my neighbor and he came over and lifted me into the chair.

— Hendrickson was one of the early Lifeline subscribers in Southern Oregon, but he has lots of company these days. More than 1,400 people in Jackson and Josephine counties pay a monthly fee that connects their home phone with a dispatch center in Massachusetts.

Like Hendrickson, many are seniors who still want to live independently but worry about how to get help if something happens.

Our average customer is an 82-year-old woman, says Lori Stonecipher, manager of Asante Lifeline, the local provider for Rogue Valley Medical Center and Three Rivers Community Hospital in Grants Pass. Asante Health System is the parent company for both hospitals.

Asante recently added its 1,000th subscriber. The Lifeline service at Providence Medford Medical Center has about 400 subscribers. Both are local contractors for Massachusetts-based Lifeline Systems, which has about 2,000 local providers and some 400,000 subscribers across the United States and Canada.

Both services use the same technology. When someone pushes the button, his telephone automatically dials the Lifeline dispatch center and an operator answers. The operator's computer identifies the source of the incoming call and immediately displays a detailed profile of the caller, including name, address and several numbers to call for help in an emergency.

The Lifeline equipment transforms the caller's phone into a speakerphone when the panic button is pressed. Operators talk to callers to find out what's wrong and dispatch appropriate help. If no one answers the operator, Lifeline contacts someone from a list provided by the caller and the local 911 emergency dispatch center.

Each person has a care plan agreement, says Lori Braughton, manager of Providence Senior Services. That's how (the operators in Massachusetts) know the information about the person.

They know who to notify. They know your hospital choice. They know what you might need.

Lifeline also contacts the caller's designated next of kin or friend to inform them an emergency call was made.

Some Lifeline users feel like they owe their lives to the service. Mary Ross, 82, pressed her button when she felt herself falling in her Grants Pass kitchen. Lifeline operators could not reach her, so they dispatched an ambulance.

They found me on a heap on the kitchen floor, said Ross, who suffered a stroke. I could have laid there for days with three dogs licking my face.

Reach reporter Bill Kettlerat 776-4492, or e-mail

For more information

Lifeline service through either Medford hospital or Three Rivers Community Hospital in Grants Pass costs &

36;38 per month and a one-time &

36;40 installation fee. For information, call Asante Lifeline at 888-256-0789 or Providence Lifeline at 732-5054.

Medical alarm services also are available from other sources. Security companies such as Sonitrol that wire houses to detect criminals can tailor their equipment for clients to contact them during a medical emergency. Several providers are listed in the classified telephone directory under the Medical Alarms & Monitoring category.

When Lifeline subscriber Ray Hendrickson, 91, of Medford fell not long ago, all he had to do was push a button and help arrived immediately. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven