Help is only a push of a button away

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Friday, January 25, 2008
— Joe Shaffer was rolling along in his walker, between the living room and kitchen, when the rear left wheel caught on the top of the basement stairs.

When the walker tipped over, Shaffer fell off its seat and tumbled down the stairs.

Realizing what had just happened, Shaffer called for help. He did so by pushing his Lifeline button that he wears like a watchband on his wrist.

When the volunteer monitor asked Shaffer if he was OK, Shaffer explained his situation and medical help was called immediately to tend to his banged up back, bruises and chipped bone in his shoulder.

Shaffer, 75, of Janesville has been a Lifeline subscriber at least three years and has used the personal response system so often he wouldn’t even attempt to guess how many times.

The program, now in its 25th year, is provided by Mercy Health System Association of Volunteers and enables a person such as Shaffer, who lives alone with health problems, to remain at home.

“I have trouble breathing, diabetes and heart problems,” Shaffer said, as he lifted his pants legs to reveal bruises and scabs on his legs and knees that are reminders of his numerous falls.

“I lose my balance and just go down,” Shaffer said.

“It’s nice to have this. I couldn’t live alone without it,” Shaffer said, referring to Lifeline, which he said is affordable and costs $10 for installation and $20 a month.

“This is a great system and so much more affordable than other systems advertised nationally,” said Marie Bilek, director of Mercy Healthy System Association of Volunteers.

“Our specially-trained volunteers have been doing an outstanding job installing, maintaining and monitoring Lifeline for 25 years. It’s a small price to pay for security and a priceless peace of mind,” Bilek said.

Hazel Amundson, 89, of Janesville agreed.

“One time would be worth the money,” she said.

To date, Amundson has had to use Lifeline only once, even though she’s subscribed to the service since October.

“My son was lying in bed and couldn’t get out. I was concerned,’’ Amundson said of her 66-year-old disabled son, Harold Christenson.

But within less than 5 minutes, Amundson said help arrived, thanks to Lifeline.

“It gives us peace of mind,” Christenson said.

“We’re both crippled,” Amundson said, explaining she falls frequently since a stroke in 1990 affected her balance.

That’s why Amundson always wears her waterproof Lifeline bracelet—even when she takes a shower.

“I never take it off,” she said.

“In you’re mind you know you can get help right away,” Amundson said.

And therein lies the success of Lifeline, designed for people who want to remain independent in their own homes by having emergency assistance quickly available, if needed, which has grown from 25 subscribers when the service started in 1982 to 925 Lifeline subscribers today.


It is a personal response system designed for people who want to remain independent and in their own homes but would like the comfort and freedom of having emergency assistance quickly available if needed.

With lifeline, a person simply pushes his or her help button to be put in contact with a Lifeline monitor based at Mercy Hospital in Janesville. The monitor asks what kind of help is needed and then calls an appropriate responder—a neighbor, friend or relative—to tell him or her what happened. If a person needs medical help, the monitor calls for it immediately. And if the person can’t speak, the monitor knows what to do.


To become a subscriber, call the Mercy Health System Association of Volunteers’ Lifeline program at (608) 756-6784.

Last updated: 12:54 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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