Philadelphia, PA • Since 1819

An Emergency Response System Reevaluated

Sara is a fiercely independent 86-year-old, who has lived in the same Center City apartment, once shared with her mother, for over 50-years. A single woman who never married, Sara worked until retirement. She derives monthly income of $1,045 from Social Security, SNAP and a stipend from FHBS. Other public entitlements include a rent rebate and PACE. Until recently, Sara was relatively healthy and went daily to the PCA Senior Center on South Broad Street; on Fridays she attended the Shabbat program at the Jewish Community Services Building. These resources were especially important during the administration of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, who reinstated an assets test for SNAP recipients causing Sara to lose her benefits. (Sara has squirreled away approximately $14,000 to cover the rent increase she fears will force her to move and the cost of her burial.)

It took two different social workers and several years to convince Sara to accept an FHBS monthly stipend and a personal emergency response system. She was enrolled in our ERS program in March of 2013. Despite the fact that she was told repeatedly that the equipment is useless unless the call button is on one’s person, Sara insisted upon keeping it on a crystal elephant on a table near her phone. She called it her “good luck charm” because having it there was a guarantee she would never need to use it. In late June, she woke up in the middle of the night, tried to get out of bed and could not move. The crystal elephant was not within reach. Sara screamed for an hour and a half before someone heard her and called the building’s property manager. He arrived and, subsequently, summoned an ambulance.

On July 8, Sara’s social worker made a home visit. Sara said, “All I know is I never had the need. Sometimes when people get ill, they get so scared they forget what they should.” The following day, she used her ERS to call for assistance and was readmitted to the hospital. She is now home with assistance from an aide.

Written by Eileen S. Sklaroff