Lifeline program helps Moffat County residents gain security, retain independence |

Lifeline program helps Moffat County residents gain security, retain independence

Bridget Manley

Dwaine Chesser, Lifeline program coordinator and full-time emergency medical technician for The Memorial Hospital, holds a Lifeline help button Friday in the hospital's ambulance equipment storage and supply room. The program, which TMH has had for about 10 years, allows subscribers to easily and quickly call for help if they need medical attention.Bridget Manley

Dwaine Chesser packs a pager on his hip, a visible reminder that the unexpected could happen at any time.

Being a full-time emergency medical technician at The Memorial Hospital can make for a hectic life, but Chesser chose it for a reason.

"What I love the most about it, I think, is the fact that I can change people's lives, not though just sometimes using my skills as an EMT but being there for them when they need somebody," he said. "A lot of calls we go on, some times people just need somebody's hand to hold and talk to."

Chesser also is the local coordinator for a program called Lifeline that, with a push of a button, can rapidly summon an ambulance —or, at the very least, offer subscribers the security that help is there if they need it.

"It gives them the independence of living … in their own place without having to be so worried about fearful," Chesser said.

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Perhaps it's fitting, then, that Chesser coordinates this program. Helping people on their worst days is the reason he got into the EMT business to begin with, and coordinating Lifeline is just another way of doing what he already loves.

Staying independent

The Lifeline setup is simple.

A unit—usually worn around the neck or on the wrist —has a button that, when pushed, can summon help if the person wearing it falls or has a medical emergency. Some personal help buttons can detect if the user falls and doesn't get up within 30 seconds.

"What makes it good though, is its right there with them all the time," Chesser said.

Once the button is pushed, the call is eventually routed to the Colorado State Patrol dispatch center in Craig, which can then send an ambulance if medical assistance is necessary.

Chesser stressed that the program isn't solely for potentially life threatening situations. If subscribers simply need help around the house, they can push their help button and someone can help them contact a family or friend.

Nor is it solely designed for residents over a certain age. Younger residents also use the system.

"It's not just for senor citizens," Chesser said. "It's for anybody that needs help."

The biggest reason people sign up for Lifeline, he added, is because they want to continue living on their own.

"They want their own place," Chesser said. "They want to live independently, and this gives them that opportunity to continue living independently."

Darlene Turner, a Sunset Meadows II resident, is one of them.

"I live alone, and I want to continue to live alone," said Turner, 69. "I'm very determined to live alone as long as I can."

Her daughter and son-in-law live in the area and visit often, yet the Lifeline provides her and her family some extra peace of mind, she said.

The one time she used it was shortly after she'd moved to Sunset Meadows. She fell, she said, and was unable to reach the phone, but using her lifeline enabled her to get help.

"I don't feel secure without it," she said, adding, "I think Lifelines are wonderful."

Forging connections

Chesser spends between 15 and 20 hours a week on the Lifeline program, he said.

He works on the program when he can, he said, adding that his tasks in this part of his job include installing or fixing units and making sure subscribers' contact information is still up to date.

People on a subscriber's contact list can move or change phone numbers, as can subscribers themselves.

Both the number of calls and the number of residents signed up for the program have gone down recently, Chesser said.

At the beginning of the year, 136 people subscribed to Lifeline. Since then, that tally has dipped to 122.

He attributed that decrease to life changes like moving out of the area or moving in to an assisted living facility or a relative's home.

"Unfortunately, a few of them have passed away," Chesser said.

But as long as they need the service, Chesser plans to be there to help. He's lent a hand to subscribers with their Lifeline systems before, once even taking a call while at a conference in Denver, he said.

When he's out installing or troubleshooting residents' Lifeline units, he's built a rapport with the people who use them, he said, including area senior citizens.

"When I walk into Sunset Meadows, it's like Norm walking into 'Cheers,'" he said, adding, "They're all glad to see me. And I'm not scared to stop and give them a hug and talk to them, either."

This is the main reason why he's chosen this life—not for the adrenaline-pumping ambulance rides, but the ability to offer a willing ear and a steadying hand, whether it's on someone's worst day or when they just need a little extra help.

"When it comes down to it, we're there to help them, no matter what," he said.

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At a Glance …

• Lifeline program allows subscribers to easily and quickly get medical help.

• Operates using a unit that plugs into the subscriber’s phone line and a personal help button that can be worn on the wrist or around the neck.

• Specialized help button will call for help if the wearer falls and doesn’t get up 30 seconds.

• System also can be used to contact family or friends if the subscriber needs assistance.

• For more information, call Program Coordinator Dwaine Chesser at 826-3292.

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