HOW TO: Using Lifeline to Monitor Caregiver Response

“How long does it take for a caregiver to help my mom or dad?”

This is a question I am frequently asked when I speak at assisted living communities.  Most communities offer some form of help button, usually in the form of a pendant or wristband worn by the resident.  When mom or dad needs help, they press the button.  A signal is sent to front desk where a receptionist or nurse dispatches assistance to the room.

Going back to my question, most community marketing staff will respond that help comes within 5 to 15 minutes.  But how do you verify this?  And what do you do if mom or dad says they ring the buzzer and nobody comes for an extended period of time?  What is your loved one has a poor perception of time?  Is there a way to monitor the situation without being annoying to everyone?

Finally… A Solution

The system is called Lifeline and it is made by Philips.  If you don’t remember, there used to be a commercial for Lifeline.  It showed an elder woman who fell. She presses a buzzer and says “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”  I used to think that this system was only useful in the event of an emergency, but boy was I wrong.  Lifeline rocks!

I recommend every resident in assisted living get Lifeline for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Vocal system: Your loved one gets to request assistance from a real person rather than a pendant.  The fact is, even with a pendant, you never know if they message was received and how it is interpreted.  Configured correctly, you can have the Lifeline people call the assisted living front desk and ask for help.  And they keep calling until the reach someone.  That’s what they are there for.  Your mom or dad benefits from acknowledgment of their need and the ability to community to the urgency – something helpful to the community as well.
  • Third-party verification: Every time your loved one calls Lifeline, they track everything that happens.  Each action is stamped with a date and time.  From the second the button is pressed until the reset button is pressed, you have access to an objective party’s view of what happened.  The case is not closed until someone in your loved one’s room presses the reset button and/or your loved validates that they have been helped via a phone call.
  • Audit trail: A more detailed report is sent to your Lifeline sales rep that indicates example to whom your loved one spoke, who at the assisted living was contacted and when the reset button was pressed. In the event something doesn’t go as your service plan provides, you’ll know exactly who did (or didn’t) do what.
  • Passive: The system gathers this information without being intrusive into the daily life of your loved one.
  • Friendly, caring people: The people at Lifeline are really helpful and genuinely concerned.  I have gotten several calls from them personally when the community front desk is not responsive or does not react with urgency when they make a request on the behalf of my mother.  My mother loves them, because they always call back to check and make sure she has been helped.

How it Works

Lifeline connects to a standard telephone line.  They offer the device and several more advanced phones that include the Lifeline device integrated with a telephone.  My mom has the cordless phone version.  Your loved one is provided a pendant they can wear around their next or wrist.  The cost is around $35 per month with a $25 activation fee.

When the button is pressed, the Lifeline device calls Lifeline’s call center.  The device is placed into speaker phone mode so your loved one can make a request without being close to the phone.  The speaker phone has an extra-sensitive microphone in the event your loved one is in the bathroom or far from the phone.

The vast majority of the time, your loved one will respond and make a normal request.  In this case, the device will automatically call Lifeline back in 30 minutes if the device has not been reset (i.e a caregiver presses the reset button).  For the 1% of the time something is medically wrong, 911 is called.

Setting it Up

Lifeline allows you to set up your account with a number of notifiers.  These are people that need to be notified every time there is a call.  Our account is set up to call the assisted living front desk first.  This ensures a caregiver is routed to my mom’s room.  In parallel, a fax is delivered to me that indicates the following:

  • When the call was made
  • What the request was about
  • When Lifeline was reset

My Lifeline sales rep is awesome (if you live in SoCal and want her name, email me).  She receives detailed reports of exactly what happened on each call.  This is great for trying to understand if there was a gap in care, delayed response or caregivers who were not accomodating.  She forwards them all to me.  I keep the ones that look out of the ordinary in the event a pattern emerges.   To be fair, the vast majority of the time, the caregivers are prompt, friendly and do a great job.

Benefit to Us

Lifeline has provided an extra degree of peace of mind for my family.  The community knows I have the device, so they know there is a objective monitor measuring response times. My mom knows something is tracking everything.  If she loses track of time, she is much more likely to ask me how long something took than to be upset if it seemed like it took a long time.  By skimming the reports, I have the peace of mind that mom is doing well, getting out of the house, going to activities, etc.

If you click on this image, you can see a sample actual report.  The names have been scrubbed to protect their privacy.


I can’t recommend this enough. And I recommend you also use the pendant, because they Lifeline only works in your room.  For around $35 a month, it such a stress-reliever.