Providing a sense of security: LifeLine

Would you be surprised to learn that the Holy Cross Sisters started the LifeLine program in the Merrill area? I certainly was. Bell Tower Residence has been providing assisted living options for the elderly since 1990. Before that, the Holy Cross Sisters which operated the Holy Cross LifeCare Systems, Inc. operated a small residential home, called the Hurd House, where daily assistance was available to individuals who resided there.

In 1985, the Hurd House corporation announced a major donation which allowed the purchase and placement of ten “LifeLine” home monitoring units in the Merrill community. This program was managed and coordinated through the Hurd House entity. They wanted to do more than provide for the immediate needs of their residents, they had a broader commitment to the community.

In the late 1980s, local groups such as the Merrill Education Association, the Eagles Club, the Lincoln County Commission on Aging, the VFW, and the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority also provided donations for LifeLine units. It became a project that many community organizations supported.

LifeLine works like this: An individual or a family member of the individual who is having a difficult time living alone can fill out an application which they may pick up at Bell Tower Residence. Questions regarding the subscriber’s medical history, physician, diagnosis, birth date, and any medical problems must be completed. The subscriber must also identify three individuals who live within a reasonable distance (preferably 5 – 10 minutes) from his/her home and would volunteer to be a responder in case of an emergency. Eileen Wadzinski who manages the LifeLine program at Bell Tower adds, “I enjoy the conversations and interactions with subscribers and assisting them in feeling safe and secure at home.”

The monitoring system connects to an individual’s phone with a pendant that the individual wears. If a person falls and injures themselves, if they are feeling ill, the individual pushes the button on his/her pendant that sends an alarm to the LifeLine office at Aspirus Hospital in Wausau. The responder then tries to talk to the individual using the intercom in the unit to assess the situation. The subscriber may say they have fallen and can’t get up, the LifeLine office will then contact the first responder on the list to go and check on the subscriber. If the subscriber tells the caller that they have broken something or describe a serious injury, they will immediately call an ambulance.

What began as a program with 10 units now consists of 145 individuals using LifeLine at their residence. The LifeLine program allows individuals the ability to remain in their home with the added security that help is a push of the button away. LifeLine also provides peace of mind to family members, knowing someone will check on their loved one when help is needed.

Today the community support continues from organizations throughout the area donating funds for the purchase of these units which cost $561each. If you are interested in this program, either to donate monetarily or as a potential subscriber, call Bell Tower Residence at 715-536-5575 for an application or more information.

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