Fund would extend a Lifeline to seniors in need

Posted: Friday, October 22, 2004

When longtime Clam Gulch resident Per Osmar recently read about a Soldotna senior citizen who broke her hip in a fall at home and lay helpless on her bathroom floor for six days before being rescued, he was moved to action.

"People need to know about Lifeline," said Osmar, 87, who lives alone and is a subscriber to the service that brings help to people who have medical emergencies and can't get to the phone.

Osmar is taking steps to see that people especially senior citizens are aware of the Lifeline response service and know how to subscribe.

He has been in touch with people at Central Peninsula General Hospital, where Lifeline currently is monitored, and has contacted a representative of Wells Fargo Bank to set up the "Osmar Lifeline Fund" people can contribute to in order to get the word to seniors who may not know about Lifeline.

Osmar said if enough money is raised, the fund will also be used to actually pay for Lifeline services for seniors who cannot afford them.

The Lifeline response service is designed to ensure that older adults living at home can get fast assistance whenever they need it, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Subscribers wear either a pendant or wristband that has a personal help button they press when in need of help.

Within seconds, a certified Lifeline attendant responds, assesses the situation and calls appropriate help.

According to a sales representative for Lifeline, the subscriber is contacted by way of a two-way speaker placed in the home.

Depending on the circumstances, the attendant can either call a neighbor or family member whose name is on a list provided in advance by the subscriber, or summon emergency medical responders.

"A lot of people especially the ones on a fixed income are afraid of the cost," Osmar said.

The Lifeline representative said the cost of the service varies depending on Zip codes.

"In Kenai, it's $40 for the one-time installation and then $40 a month," she said.

Subscribers are not required to enter into a contract with the service provider and may cancel at any time.

While Lifeline is not covered by Medicare and most insurance companies will not pay for the service, it can be paid for through the CHOICE Waiver program if the senior citizen qualifies under Medicaid.

People can arrange for Lifeline through a health care coordinator or by contacting CPGH directly.

"A care coordinator could go visit the senior and assess the need," said Tammy Meier, a Consumer Directed Personal Care Attendant program specialist at Frontier Community Services in the Red Diamond Center on Kalifornsky Beach Road.

She said that although CHOICE an acronym for Community and Home Options for Institutional Care for Everyone uses Medicaid funds to provide home and community based care to clients, the people are not required to be on Medicaid in order to obtain CHOICE Waivers services.

Frontier Community Services, a United Way agency, is not the only provider of care coordinator services on the Kenai Peninsula.

In fact, a social services planner for CPGH said the list is so extensive, she recommends that seniors wanting to know if they qualify for Lifeline coverage should first contact the state's Division of Senior and Disabilities Services at 1-800-478-9996.

"What happened to that lady up in Soldotna doesn't have to happen," Osmar said, referring to 81-year-old Doris Oglesby.

Before Oglesby was found by Soldotna Police Officer Mark Berestoff, she remained unable to move on her bathroom floor for six days without food or water.

Once found, she was rushed to CPGH where she was treated and underwent emergency hip surgery. She is now recovering at Heritage Place in Soldotna, according to her daughter, Carolyn Zibolsky, of Appleton, Wis.

Osmar said he will put the first $200 into the Lifeline fund so other seniors will be informed about Lifeline, and may in fact be saved one day because they subscribe.

CPGH spokesperson Bonnie Nichols said the hospital also is planning to produce public service spot ads to inform people about Lifeline.

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