Choosing a Personal Emergency Response (PERS) Device – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Technology innovation continues to improve the ways it can help our senior loved ones remain safe as they are aging in place.

While Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) have been around for many years — remember the commercials with the woman who had fallen and couldn’t get up? — there have been many innovations that make them very appealing to today’s independent living seniors.

Many family caregivers are being asked to advise and give some opinions about which device may be best to select. Others are initiating the purchase to help their senior loves one stay safe and independent.

How do you begin?

What questions should you be asking to learn what you need to know about this technology?

Which device will be the best fit for your senior?

Tips for Selecting a PERS

Realizing that an emergency device might be beneficial is a good first step towards helping your senior loved ones remain safe while they maintain their independence.

What exactly is a PERS? PERS are home devices that connect older adults to designated contacts or, typically, a 24-hour call center with the push of a button. The button or transmitter is typically worn on a neck pendant or wristband. When activated, it sends a signal to an emergency responder.

We recently talked to a provider of a PERS device and learned about some things family caregivers should know before they decide which device will work best for their family.

Questions to ask before you buy:

  1. What is included? Is it just a fall detection system or will it also include more options or expansion capabilities such as home invasion security, telehealth, or medical management? As PERS providers improve the devices and the technology, they are able to provide more services than just a fall response. Depending on what services you would find helpful, look for a cost-effective device to meet either the basic need or a more involved situation.
  2. What is the cost? Will there be a contract? What is the duration of the contract? Are there any equipment leasing costs or fees for monitoring? What is the installation cost? Will there be technology troubleshooting costs? Usually insurance companies and Medicare will not cover the cost of a PERS. You can check your senior’s long term care insurance policy to see if a home safety device would be covered.
  3. Can the caregiver be linked so updates and alerts are received? Who is called in an emergency and in what order – a call center or first responders or family caregivers?
  4. What does it look like? Is it attractive or will your senior not want to wear it? There are many new, stylish models available that look like jewelry and may be more acceptable for seniors.
  5. How long does the battery last and how is it recharged? Devices that are inconvenient to recharge or need it done frequently may end up tossed in a drawer — providing no value to your senior loved one and false peace of mind for family caregivers.
  6. What will the range of the device be? Is it a standalone cellular device or does it have GPS with Bluetooth connection to their phone so it will work outside the home?
  7. Is the device waterproof if it gets worn in the shower or out in the rain?
  8. Who is responsible for warranty or service if the device malfunctions, breaks, or wears out?
  9. Does the PERS device connect with others through your senior’s smartphone or a base station in their home, which might need wifi or a landline phone connection?

Additional Resources

There are more and more technology advances to help our senior loved ones age in place safely and comfortably. It can be hard to keep up with the innovations and know what purchase would benefit everyone. Here are some more articles to help you connect seniors to beneficial technology.