(Just a note that this article was originally published in December of 2011.)
A Personal Emergency Response System (or PERS) is a service generally provided by a private company, that helps to monitor its subscribers for falls, medical problems or other emergencies by use of a 3 part system. These 3 parts consist of a). a pendant, charm, necklace, belt or watch b). a base station and c). a call center/monitoring station.
When a person needs help, they simply press their “Help” button and are connected via 2-way voice to an operator at the call center. (The call center has a file on each subscriber that lists their diagnoses, medications, allergies, and emergency contact information.) The call center will verify that there is an emergency and will notify the appropriate emergency response system. Family members will also be notified.
You can purchase, rent, or lease a PERS. Keep in mind that Medicare, Medicaid, and most insurance companies typically don’t pay for the equipment, and the few that pay require a doctor’s recommendation but the security and peace of mind that these systems bring with them is worth their cost.
PERS systems are good for elders while they are in their homes within range of the base station (see below for range). They won’t do any good for an elder who falls at the grocery store.
The MPERS (Mobile Personal Emergency Response System) takes this one step further and allows the subscriber to be away from the base station. Unlike the PERS which often required that the subscriber be within 300 feet or less of the base station, the MPERS utilizes GPS and/or cellular technology that allows seniors to be on the go and still be safely monitored.
The Alzheimer’s Association now offers Comfort Zone, especially for patients with dementia, but which would still be great for all elders with disconcerting diagnoses. It utilizes GPS technology and has computer monitoring capabilities for families. This seems a little intrusive to the elder but let me share a story with you about a lady who lived in my area. This lady had Alzheimer’s and took a car out for a drive one fall day. Somehow, she drove right into a cornfield, got the car stuck and so began trying to find her way out on foot. She couldn’t find her way out and no one was able to locate her once they knew she went missing. Unfortunately, she succumbed to the elements. If she had been wearing a GPS locator, chances are good that she would have been found in time. This is, of course, one of the more expensive options.
The Alzheimer’s association also offers Medic Alert + Safe Return(TM) which is simply a medic alert bracelet that includes an emergency response number with 24 hour staff monitoring which is just $25.00 per year after an initial set up fee of $24.95.
Some other PERS that are available include:
Philips Lifeline (updated 5/4/2014)
* the monthly fee for STANDARD service is $29.95
* the auto alert option( which is fall detection service) is an additional $13.00 per month
* $59.95 set up fee when a representative visits the home to do the set-up
* has long-range capabilities
* has medication reminder program (extra charge)
*a wireless solution is available for those instances where there is no land line
* 35.00 monthly
* $99.00 set up fee
* 300 foot distance
* 1 year committment
Walgreen’s Ready Response (owned by American Medical Alert Company)
* seemingly good value
* $35 set up fee
* $35 monthly
* 250 foot range
* No set up fee
* 400 foot range
* (not available in Canada)
Life Alert (owner of the original “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” ad)
* had the worst reviews
* $200.00 up front costs
* 150 foot range
* 3 year contract
* They won’t provide any info without receiving your phone number/address
* 0 monthly cost
* $289 upfront cost
* 50-200 foot range
* no upfront costs
* 3-12 month committment
* has long-range capabilities (600-1000 feet)
VRI (Valued Relationships, Inc.)
* 0 – $175 upfront costs
* 250 – 600 foot range
* no upfront costs
* 3-12 month committment
Bay Alarm Medical
* No upfront costs
* 300-500 foot
* $34.95 monthly
* offers medication reminder system for additional charge
* available in Canada
* slightly different system that uses WiFi technology
* has automatic fall detection
* calls residents with reminders for medications, etc.
Some questions to ask when researching these systems:
* How long is your response time?
* Does your staff receive any special training? What kind of training DO they receive?
* Are there batteries and how long is the average battery life?
* Is there a replacement charge for batteries?
* Is the equipment rented or purchased?
* Is there a replacement charge for broken equipment?
* What happens if I move? Do you have centers in other states?
* What are the initial costs and which costs are recurring?
* Is there a fixed term contract? Can I cancel at any time or is there a cancellation fee?
*Is the company utilizing FDA certified equipment? (This is important.)
* Is the pendant, watch, etc., waterproof?
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