Family Urging People To Check Medic Alert Systems

91-year-old Clara Phillips died just last week after falling in the middle of the night while trying to get to the bathroom.  Her family tells News Leader 9 her security blanket, a medic alert panic button she always wore, failed because the phone was knocked off the hook.  The company who makes the system, however, says it followed proper protocol.

A panic alarm is the sound Clara Phillips' family says she listened to for seven hours straight after falling.

"She could hear the system going off, and she thought it would just be a matter of time before the system notified my sister, myself, or either called 911," said Lowell Phillips, Clara's son.

But no one ever came.  Clara Phillips' daughter found her the next morning.  Just days later, Phillips died.  A direct result, her family believes, of the fall, and a phone knocked off the hook.

"Being that the phone was disconnected, the system then would not work," Phillips said.  "It was a false sense of security because she wore this around neck religiously."

The Phillips family says they had no idea a disconnected phone would interfere with the system, and weren't told when it was installed.

The American Medical Alert Corporation, however, says protocol was followed.  An AMAC respresentative, who couldn't speak specifically to Phillips, says a special phone jack has to be installed to avoid problems with the panic button.  The representative says clients are clearly instructed about this, and have to sign-off on it.

But the Phillips family says nothing like that was explained to their loved one.

"She would have never been willing to change systems to this particular type of system had she known that would disable the system by having the phone off the hook cause it was her security," said Brenda Phillips, Clara's daughter-in-law.

The family says they want anyone with a medic alert system to test it with the phone off the hook to make sure it works.  They also say there needs to be a better explanation about what the phone being off the hook could do the system.

AMAC, for its part, says it is investigating, and they are extremely careful to advise customers about what equipment is needed.