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Lifeline Emergency Response System Seeking Users

Stanford University Hospital's LIfeline emergency response system is expanding its services and is looking for handicapped or medically at-risk persons who need a little help to remain independent, said Kathy Armistead, program director.

"We've got 29 units being shipped and another 40 or so are on order," Armistead said Friday. The service, she said, currently has 245 units installed in user homes on the mid Peninsula.

Since Lifeline was founded in 1983 by the SUH Auxiliary, users have sometimes needed to sign up on a waiting list for the units, which instantly alert a Lifeline staffer who can summon help.

"People who need Lifeline need the service promptly," said Armistead. "A waiting list can be frustrating for a person in need and can result in a loss of independence or costly caretaker support being required until a unit becomes available for them."

Expansion was a key goal of the hospital and Armistead's boss, Patient and Community Relations Director Jeanne Kennedy, since the new Lifeline director was hired to run the formerly all-volunteer service last spring.

Typically, Armistead said, users are elderly persons who can function effectively as long as help for a potentially life threatening condition is available quickly. Put simply, Lifeline allows them to live independently without institutional care.

Users activate the service by pushing a 1.75-inch button worn around their necks, on a belt or attached to their clothing. The button sends a radio signal to a home base unit attached to a telephone, which in turn automatically dials the LIfeline office. (Users must be within 200 feet of their phone for the system to work properly). A Lifeline staff person then tries to contact the user, or failing that, one of three neighbors who have agreed to be "responders." Medical aid is then summoned, if necessary, by a responder, or failing that, by Lifeline itself.

Persons who cannot afford the $30 installation fee and a $30 monthly fee, are welcome to inquire about scholarship aid, Armistead said.

Stanford's Lifeline has helped more than 600 persons since the service was started in 1983 by the Medical Center Auxiliary with a contribution of $100,000, Armistead said.

In addition to recruiting new patrons, LIfeline is seeking volunteers to install the units in users' homes, Armistead said. Installers don't need experience, "in fact if you can plug in a phone, you can install Lifeline," she said.

For further information on receiving the service or volunteering, phone (415) 723-6906.


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