Monitoring systems offer security for the elderly, the sick, latchkey children CARROLL COUNTY SENIORS

November 17, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

A new computerized monitoring service is available that will make daily phone calls to an elderly person, to someone recovering from surgery, to a latchkey child or to anyone else who should be checked on regularly.

It joins several other personal monitoring systems available in Carroll County.

The new service is called How Are You Today? Donna R. Kreiner, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at Church Hospital in Baltimore and in the emergency room at Carroll County General Hospital in Westminster, runs it from the basement of her Finksburg home.

Mrs. Kreiner said she began thinking about a monitoring service about 18 months ago, after an elderly couple were brought into Carroll County General Hospital by police.

They had been found, lost and confused, driving very slowly and trying to find a relative's house. They had not eaten for two days.

"They had no one that had even checked on them in two days," Mrs. Kreiner said. "No one even knew they were missing."

Mrs. Kreiner's service will telephone each client as many as six times a day at pre-selected times.

If the person is fine, he or she picks up the phone and presses "1."

For help, the user presses "0." The computer then dials a previously designated contact person, such as a neighbor, and tells him to send help.

If the client does not answer the phone, or if there is a repeated busy signal, the computer dials the contact person with the message that the phone was busy or unanswered.

"It can also be used as a reminder service to take medicines on time," Mrs. Kreiner said, or to check on whether a latchkey child has arrived home from school safely.

The service costs $35 a month. Anyone signing up for a year receives one month free. Until Christmas, a free two-week introductory period is being offered.

At least two similar monitoring services operate in Westminster. Each of their clients wears a pendant with a button. To get help, the client pushes the button, which activates a monitor that sends a request for help to a neighbor or a professional operator.

One of the services, Lifeline of Westminster, is offered by Peggy Gist. It began in 1985 and has 90 clients.

The Lifeline service can be rented for $30 a month, with sliding fees for people with low incomes. It also can be purchased at a one-time cost of $795, plus a service charge of $5 a month.

HomeCall of Westminster began offering a similar service, the Personal Emergency Response System, more than a year ago. The number of clients was not available yesterday.

The HomeCall system can be rented for $34.95 a month, including professional monitoring. It can be purchased for $389, with optional professional monitoring for $20 a month.

Karen Feroli, director of the Westminster HomeCall office, said the market for personal monitoring services in Carroll County still has room to grow. Because the county's population continues to increase, she said, "there's a need for all of us."

Ann U. Allen, coordinator of the Carroll County office of the state Senior Information and Assistance Program, said home monitoring programs can be useful.

However, she said, some seniors have fallen victim to scams in which unscrupulous operators charged "outrageous" fees for home monitoring services.

The How Are You Today? service can be reached at 876-6621, 840-9166 or 876-5834.

Lifeline of Westminster can be reached at 848-6055.

HomeCall of Westminster can be reached at 848-5379.

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