Thursday, June 21, 2018
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Gothenburg woman knows help will be on the way

New Lifeline system detects fall, signals authorities.

Pie in one hand and purse in the other, Bev Schmeeckle walked out of her house north of Gothenburg headed for the sale barn. At 77 years old, she still enjoys her once-a-week job there.

When Bev got to the bottom of the steps outside her home, though, her foot caught a drain pipe and she fell to the ground.

The pie landed upright, only slightly off the edge of one side of the pan.

Bev said she pulled herself up, with everything except her pride intact. She carried the pie back inside the house.

No one saw her fall and yet when she got to the kitchen only a couple of minutes later, someone was already checking up on her.

“The speaker on the counter was going off and they’d already called both Tim and Susie,” Bev said.

That’s the blessing of a relatively new Lifeline feature now offered in this area.

Bev has had the Lifeline system with auto-alert feature for nearly a year.

Son Tim Schmeeckle, who lives just down the road, and daughter Susie Schmeeckle, who lives in town, insisted their mother have the Lifeline installed.

“I had just noticed how unsteady she was becoming on her feet,” Susie said. “Being by herself, we just thought it was kind of a safety measure.”

Bev was uncertain she needed Lifeline at first. Now that she knows it works, she’s grateful for the reassurance.

Lifeline is a personal emergency response system first offered to the public in the early 1980s.

The service helps people stay independent in their homes as long as possible, according to Jennifer Schneider, program coordinator for Areawide Lifeline, which is offered locally through Central Plains Home Health and Hospice in Cozad.

Schneider said Lifeline works through the phone system and automatically connects to the Boston call center when activated.

Thousands of people across the country, mostly senior citizens, have been using Lifeline for more than nearly three decades.

Wearing a standard signal device on a string or chain around their necks, customers were able to push a button and get help.

The auto-alert feature is less than a year old, Schneider said, and growing in popularity.

The signal device is also worn around the neck, or as a bracelet, and can still be activated with the push of a button.

An added feature of the new device, Schneider said, is that it can detect a definite change in height.

“If a person falls, it automatically activates a Lifeline call,” she said.

Service personnel in the call center will attempt to contact the person three times to see if they are all right, Schneider said.

If there is no response in that short time, Lifeline will contact the person’s designated responders and an ambulance.

“The longer a person is down, with a broken hip for instance, the longer it takes to recover and the less likely a full recovery is,” Schneider said. “This Lifeline unit saves a person from lying in pain for a long time.”

The Schmeekles say it’s like an insurance policy.

“You don’t want to have to use it but knowing it’s there and that it works makes you feel better,” Bev said.

Earlier this month, Bev took her second tumble down the steps outside her home.

She was holding onto the handrail on that icy December morning and barely moving.

“I knew it was terribly slick,” she said. “I was trying to be careful.”

But she went down anyway and before she could get back to her feet, she heard the Lifeline box going off inside.

Luckily, Bev wasn’t hurt and could tell the Lifeline caller she didn’t need help.

“At least I know it works,” she said.

The monthly subscription cost is minimal compared with her mother’s well-being, Susie said.

“Her health is far more important than anything materialistic,” Susie said. “I’d go door-to-door telling people about this if I could. It’s that important.”