Guide to Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS)
“Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” This was a saying we all chuckled about as kids, but as our parents have grown older we notice that they are less steady on their feet and falling could be serious. We all want the security of knowing that if our parent fell due to loss of balance or sudden illness that they can call for help by using an SOS button.
You may have done some of the basics to your parent’s living space such as adding grab bars in the bathroom and night lights in the halls but according to the CDC, sudden falls are the most common cause of injuries and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year 35 percent of adults over the age of 65 suffer a fall. And twenty to thirty percent of those who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures or head traumas, that can impact their ability to live independently.
Known as Personal Emergency Response Systems or PERS, there are special home phone systems that work with a wireless “call-button” worn on a belt clip, wristwatch or necklace. If your loved one is injured or feeling suddenly ill they can press the call-button they are wearing, the button send a signal to the phone that calls a 24 hour monitoring service. The service center will dispatch help to your loved ones home plus place calls/text messages to you or a neighbor or a closer relative, depending on how you set up the service.
Most people do not know this, but PERS providers can be national or local. Local PERS providers are companies typically affiliated with a county or city social service agency. If you search the words “Personal Emergency Response Systems” you will bring up the websites of the national providers. However, if you add the name of a county or city to the same search you will find the local providers. It's worth investigating both types of services.
The PERS phones and call buttons are not new, they are a proven product that has been around for 25 years or more. The hardware is either purchased or rented plus you pay a monthly monitoring fee. Neither Medicare nor Medicaid will pay for the purchase of equipment. Some hospitals and social service agencies may subsidize rental fees for lower income users.
The purchase price for an emergency phone can range from $90 to more than $300. Some phones will charge an installation fee and a monthly monitoring fee for 24/7 coverage. The cost per month can range from $20 to $45 and higher for additional services such as medication reminding or thermostat monitoring. There may be rentals available through local distributors, or social service agencies, monthly fees can range from $30 to $60 for rental plus monitoring.
A leader in fall detection is the national provider Philips Lifeline. The Lifeline system, phone and pendant with AutoAlert, is the first pendant-style help button that contains technology to automatically detect a sudden fall. If the pendant senses no motion or inactivity with the person for 30 seconds, the pendant will place a call for help.
ADT is another national provider, and well established brand for home security monitoring. The ADT medical alert system can be added to their home security monitoring system and can call for assistance when the pendant button is pushed. The benefit for your parents is both the home security and their physical safety can be monitored.
For active seniors’ on-the-go, who drives, play golf, or travel there is a new affordable PERS solutions that connects with their mobile phone. GreatCall, the mobile phone provider of the Jitterbug handset is the first company to provide a mobile PERS solution with the 5Star Urgent Response system. The system provides a wireless call-button that will connect them directly to a GreatCall emergency response agent or 911. The portable button can hang on a keychain, belt clip or be carried in a purse or jacket pocket.
In addition to the mobile PERS, GreatCall has created some easy to use mobile apps for health and safety by providing a range of tools, such as medication management, symptom checkers and professional health advice, all available on an iPhone or Android. The Med Coach app will provide daily pill medication reminders and automatic refills. The Live Nurse app is the ability to call a nurse 24/7 for health advice – no appointment necessary.