The Lifeline Program: A Real Lifesaver

Thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers at Simi Valley Hospital & Health Care Services–and with strong support from the hospital and the cities of Simi Valley and Moorpark–seniors and their families have a level of assurance that their need for assistance during an emergency will not go unheard. That assurance is the Lifeline Program, which provides a direct link between seniors and the Emergency Department at Simi Valley Hospital.

How Lifeline Works

The system works like this: The senior client carries a personal help button, which is typically worn on a chain around the neck. During an emergency, the client pushes the button, which activates a home communicator attached to his or her telephone. In the hospital’s Emergency Department, the signal activates an audible alarm and the person’s name and other necessary information appears on a computer screen.

At that point, an E/R nurse who is trained in the use of the system attempts to call the client to assess the problem and offer any assistance that might be needed. If the nurse is unable to reach the client, he or she calls a “responder,” a friend or family member of the client who lives nearby and has been pre-selected to assist in case of emergency. Paramedics are called, if necessary, and the client’s needs are taken care of quickly and thoroughly.

Volunteers Make the Difference

Although the Lifeline Program is available in a number of cities around the country, local senior clients benefit from significant cost savings, thanks to underwriting by Simi Valley Hospital and the cities of Simi Valley and Moorpark, as well as the tremendous efforts of a group of 20 dedicated hospital volunteers.

In most cities that offer Lifeline, the senior client pays $35 to $40 per month for the service. However, in Simi Valley and Moorpark, many seniors qualify for free service offered through the respective city governments. Those who are above the annual income threshold of $24,000 pay just $15 a month for the service, which is available through the hospital.

The work of the Lifeline volunteers is divided into two main categories: One group goes into the clients’ homes to install the home communicator units and help the client understand how the help button and unit function. Another group of volunteers calls each client at least once per month to make sure that the button and home unit are still functioning properly.

The History of Lifeline

From its inception in 1983, Lifeline has been a volunteer-led effort. When SVH volunteer Wayne Templeton began the program that year, he single-handedly provided service to 20 clients. Today, the program has grown to its current complement of 19 volunteers and 152 clients. In nearly 18 years of existence, Lifeline has served 433 clients. During the year 2000 alone, volunteers installed 52 home units.

Don Hunt, who has led the Lifeline work since July 1998, said that the volunteers take their roles very seriously. “For the volunteers, this is a way to give something back to the community,” he said. “If we are fortunate to live long enough, we will all someday reach a point where we may need assistance from someone. Knowing that they can be that someone who serves the needs of others gives the volunteers a sense of satisfaction.”

How to Sign up for the Lifeline Program

If you are interested in the Lifeline program for yourself or a loved one, contact the senior center in Simi Valley at (805) 583-6363 or Moorpark at (805) 529-6864 for more information and an application.