Montreal

Automated service calls isolated people to make sure they're OK

Lise Pigeon believes a service such as Pair — which automatically calls its elderly members at a set time every day, and contacts family members or police if there is no answer after three tries — could have helped her after a fall.

Pair has 6,000 members and is hoping to recruit another 100,000 over the next three years

Lise Pigeon, a 62-year-old Montreal resident, says she feels as though the Pair program would have helped her when she fell from her wheelchair two years ago. (Radio-Canada)

Two years ago, Lise Pigeon fell from her wheelchair and spent nearly 44 hours alone, on the floor of her Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie apartment.

The 62-year-old has multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. She couldn't get up. 

A health care worker who visits her home weekly eventually found her.

"The doorbell was ringing but I couldn't ask for help because I was dehydrated; I lost my voice," she said.

Since then, Pigeon leaves cordless phones on the floor so she feels safe. 

She lives alone, and believes a service such as Pair — which automatically calls its members at a set time every day and contacts family members or police if there is no answer after three tries — could have made a difference.

Pigeon devised a system in case she falls again — cordless phones on the floor of her Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie apartment. (Radio-Canada)

Created in 1990, there are about 6,000 Pair members across the province, many of them in the regions. 

The service is offered to the elderly and those who live alone and are at-risk. It is delivered through partnerships with local organizations.

But the service isn't available in many areas of Montreal, and so far, no anglophone organizations have signed up, said spokesperson Yves Cournoyer.

The program is hoping to increase its membership numbers to 100,000 over the next three years.

Marguerite Blais, minister responsible for the elderly, said her party promised to increase budgets for home care during the elections, and the Coalition Avenir Québec is considering putting some of that money toward automated call services.

"It's a simple and effective measure that can greatly contribute to the safety of people who live alone," she said.

Based on a report by Radio-Canada's Sebastien Desrosiers

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