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LifeLine in New Hands

January 20, 2011

After nearly thirty years as a service of Mount Desert Island Hospital’s Auxiliary, the Lifeline program is now being run by Birch Bay Retirement Village.

Birch Bay Village nurse Debbie Brashear has taken
over coordination of the LifeLine program from long time
MDI Hospital Auxiliary member and past President
Kathy Suminsby.

The service, which offers remote assistance by telephone for seniors in an emergency, had been coordinated by Auxiliary member and past President Kathryn Suminsby and is now administered by Debbie Brashear, a nurse who also serves as Nursing Supervisor at Birch Bay Village.

“The program had been run with part-time help since its inception in the early 1980’s,” said Current auxiliary President Norma Murray. “The Auxiliary voted to turn it over to Birch Bay Village since it fit with their focus,” said Murray.

The Auxiliary turned over equipment and program resources valued at nearly $80,000, all of which were acquired through fundraising efforts.

The service is offered on a subscription basis for $35 per month plus a one-time $30 installation fee. “I’m getting to know the subscribers,” said Brashear. Currently, the MDI Lifeline program has 133 subscribers, but Brashear is planning on adding more. “We’re currently serving all of MDI, Trenton, Ellsworth, Swans Island, Frenchboro, and the Cranberries, but my goal is to add more zip codes,” she said.

“The goal of the program is to help build independence. It allows people to stay in their house,” said Brashear. Each Lifeline unit includes a water proof pendant or wrist-style Help Button which the subscriber can push in an emergency, such as a fall or a medical emergency.

A device known as the Communicator, which Brashear will hook up to the subscriber’s phone, detects the signal from the button and calls a twenty-four hour Response Center. A Lifeline Response Associate will speak to the person in trouble through the Communicator, assessing the situation and determining what response is needed.

When signing up for the service, subscribers will identify a neighbor or relative who can be contacted in case of emergencies. The Lifeline Response Associate will either contact the relative or neighbor, or 911. 

“It has a range of 800 to 1,200 feet, so people can be in their garden and the system will work,” said Brashear. “If they are out of voice range for the intercom, the Response Associate will make the appropriate calls.”

“This system provides peace of mind,” she said. “And baby boomers are living longer and want to stay home as they age. With the Lifeline service they don’t have to move away from their home.”

For information on the Lifeline program or to register, call 288-0498.

Posted in 2011