Hospital to offer transmitters for summoning aid in times of helplessness Program to target elderly residents ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY HEALTH

January 12, 1993|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

You've seen the commercials: An elderly woman lies helpless on the floor, shouting into a tiny transmitter, "I've fallen and I can't get up!"

Although the commercials have become popular material for stand-up comics, the problem of elderly people falling and being unable to call for help is nothing to laugh about.

So administrators at North Arundel Hospital decided four months ago to offer a personal emergency response service through the hospital's professional center.

The service will be offered at a reduced cost, so people who might benefit from the service will be able to afford it.

Yesterday, the hospital got its first shipment of 35 transmitters to officially start the Hospital Emergency LifeCall Program (HELP), said Morris Reitz, a marketing representative for the North Arundel Hospital Professional Center, a hospital subsidiary that will coordinate the program.

The professional center has con

tracted with Automated Security Alert of Munhall, Pa., to provide the hardware and handle the emergency calls. The hospital selected the Pennsylvania firm after looking at proposals from four companies, Mr. Reitz said.

North Arundel will charge $50 to install the system and a $25 monthly service fee, he said. Although the service fee is comparable to private companies, the $50 installation fee is only a fraction of the $350 to $500 most companies charge, said Mr. Reitz, who researched the project.

"What little profit we make, we'll put back into the program," he said. The hospital will offer the service on

a limited basis at an even lower cost to clients who cannot afford $25 a month.

Mr. Reitz said about 10 private companies offer personal emergency response systems in the area, using a variety of approaches. Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis offers a similar program at a cost comparable to North Arundel's, he said.

"We're not trying to compete with anyone on this," he said. "We're just trying to offer this to the community at a reasonable cost."

North Arundel's program, which will target elderly residents, will provide each user with a pendant and install a telephone receiver with au

tomatic dialer -- about the size of an answering machine -- in the home. A button on the pendant, when pushed, activates the automatic dialer. The pendant can reach the dialer from a radius of 150 to 200 feet, so it can be used outside as well as inside the home.

Although the elderly are the most obvious target group, Mr. Reitz said the service could be useful to parents with children home alone after school, to people with medical problems or physical impairments, or to individuals who work or live alone and want to use it for security purposes.

Clients will discuss in advance

what action they want the company to take, should they activate the pendant, which could include calling 911 or a neighbor or relative. Normally, the company first contacts the client, to determine the type of assistance needed. If the client does not answer the phone, the company immediately contacts emergency personnel.

Another benefit of this system, Mr. Reitz said, is that the company makes monthly checks to assure that the equipment is functioning properly.

For more information about the service, call 761-4000.

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