Guardian Angel Program Keeps Tabs On Homebound

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Several different calling systems are in place in Payson to check on seniors, the homebound and people on oxygen or other medical devices.

Whether the emergency is big or small, there are people who are ready to move into action.

The Guardian Angel Program is a joint effort between police and fire departments. Volunteer receptionists assist in the police department's wellness check program. Mountain Respiratory Care and Preferred Home Care are prepared to service customers in the event of an emergency. Payson Regional Medical Center and RTA Hospice and Palliative Care stand ready to visit patients if needed.

People who have been provided with a Guardian Angel necklace can call a family member or neighbor for assistance at the push of a button.

Their home phone dials one of the three people they have listed as contacts and keeps dialing until one of them is reached. At that point, the contact person can determine if 911 should be called, or if it is a simpler matter.

Volunteers make wellness calls each morning from the police reception desk.

"If the homebound resident does not answer after several attempts, we go out and physically check," said Don Engler, Payson police commander.

"Even people who have had a recent hospitalization and are now home alone can be placed on the list for a period of time. We have had a couple of incidents where people have fallen and we didn't get a response, so we went out and found them and were able to intervene," he said.

Neighborhood watch programs are set up to watch for illegal activity like burglaries and drug or other criminal activity that might be afoot in the neighborhood.

"Our program goes above and beyond the information it gives neighborhoods about securing their homes because there is a helping hand attitude to it," Engler said. "It tries to implement relationships between different people in the neighborhood so that they watch out for one another."

The emergency preparedness plans of Mountain Respiratory Care and Preferred Home Care are similar. The plans include critical and complex patient lists that get priority in the event of an emergency.

Employees would report to work before being sent out to check on patients equipped with devices like continuous positive airway pressure machines and continuous passive motion machines.

Patients who were not already on liquid oxygen would be converted, said Ann Hood, registered respiratory therapist with PHC.

"We would follow through making sure patients got their oxygen when they needed it and things like that in case of power outages or things like that," said Scott Wilson, customer service representative for MRC.

Bulk liquid oxygen tanks allow both companies to be prepared and better respond to patient needs. MRC has a bulk liquid oxygen tank located at the airport. PHC will have one located on site by the end of the month. It was delayed due to Hurricane Katrina, Hood said.

RTA put part of its disaster plan into play last January when the subdivision in which its facilities are located was without power for five or six hours.

"We checked in on patients who were in the area," Hansen said. "The respiratory company was ready to bring in backup equipment."

PRMC counted the comprehensive disaster drill it staged earlier this year a success. It involved all the fire departments in the area, the police, ambulance services, CERT and Native Air (helicopter transport).

Forty Payson High School drama students acted as members of rival gangs. Some were injured when a fight broke out and transported to PRMC. Others went to the hospital to try to get in, check on their friends and add general mayhem to the drill.

Responding to an emergency is a team effort.

"Every disaster is different," Hansen said. "You've got to learn to think on your feet."

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