Which is the Best Personal Alarm for the Elderly
Choosing a personal elderly alarm for yourself or a loved one can be a confusing process. There are many different alarms and service providers to choose from and the differences between them can be hard to identify. Despite performing the same basic function, different alarms and services are suitable for different people. It is worthwhile investing the time to find the alarm that is best for your individual needs. This brief guide will highlight the key features to look for in both the personal alarm and the service provider.
What Features to Look For in a Personal Elderly Alarm
Appearance of the Pendant
Whilst appearance may not seem to be important from a functionality point of view, what the alarm button looks like can significantly alter the likelihood of it being worn. This could be due to simply disliking the look, or even feeling that they have connotations of frailty that make the wearer feel less able. There are now pendant buttons which are designed to look like jewellery and can be worn around the neck on a silver chain or around the wrist with more of the look of modern tech.
Whilst many pendant alarms look very similar, there are some key features you should be aware of which can differ from model to model. Key amongst these is battery life. Your pendant alarm will be in near constant use, likely worn whenever you are in and around the house, it is important that you can rest assured that it is always operational. A long battery life means you do not have to worry about how much charge is remaining and whether you are covered. High quality alarms typically have a battery life in excess of 5 years. Many pendant buttons are sealed units and will need replacing from time to time, some buttons now have battery change functionality. Low battery warnings should be sent to your response centre, giving your equipment provider time to replace the button in a timely fashion.
Another important feature is range. Pendant alarms are linked to a base unit connected to a telephone line, usually centrally located in your home. Different models of alarm will have varying operational ranges from that base unit. Whilst all should cover even a large home, some are able to cover a much wider area, meaning you can be protected whilst enjoying your garden or doing other tasks in the immediate environs of the house. Where service providers offer a home visit to install the alarm, a perimeter test will establish the area where you are protected. In the event a far greater range is required, it may be appropriate to look at GPS tracking devices with an SOS button. (See ‘GPS Trackers’ below).
Ease of Use
It is also important that the pendant itself is easy to use. Most elderly care alarms are operated by pressing a button located in the centre of the front face of the pendant. You must be able to easily press this button. Accidental activation is a potential issue that good alarms attempt to prevent by recessing the button, so that pushing it against a surface or knocking it against a piece of furniture will not activate the alarm. Some alarm providers have attachments available to reduce the pressure required to fully depress the button where dexterity is impaired.
Modern personal alarms are usually waterproof, allowing them to be worn in the shower. It is important to ensure yours is, as bathrooms are a high-risk area for slips and falls and, as a consequence, are where having an alarm is particularly helpful.
For the more active elderly there are also options that can provide cover outside of the home. These relatively new devices incorporate technology such as GPS trackers and roaming SIM cards. This allows the user to signal their distress from anywhere and open a two-way call from the alarm itself, either with an emergency response centre or with a specified contact. They can also be used to locate the wearer should the need arise. Recent developments have given GPS Trackers enhanced reliability. They are the device of choice where wandering is an issue as geo-fences can be set to alert concerned contacts if the wearer exits a pre-set area.
Many providers will offer falls detectors as an option to be worn instead of, or as well as the alarm button. Fall detectors can be set to different levels of sensitivity according to need and are a good solution where the wearer may be unlikely or unwilling to press an alarm button for help. Falls detectors in the latest GPS devices are perhaps the best yet developed.
Personal Alarm for the Elderly - Comfort Considerations
For a pendant alarm to be truly effective it should be worn at all times. It is therefore important that you or your loved one are comfortable wearing it all the time. It should not impact on day to day tasks nor make the wearer feel uncomfortable with its presence. There are multiple factors to consider when identifying which alarm is likely to be the most comfortable to wear. Some of these are relatively simple such as judging the size and weight of the alarm. Most modern alarms are smaller and lighter than their predecessors.
Many alarms have more than one option for method of wearing. Typical options include neck pendant or wrist strap. With some alarms you will be able to change your method of wearing simply by changing attachment, whilst others will be less flexible. Different neck cords and wrist straps may also be composed of different materials, which may impact on personal comfort. The slightly larger GPS device can be worn on a secure lanyard around the neck or on a clip which can fasten to any waistband or belt, which may suit the more active.
What to look for in an Elderly Care Alarm Service Provider
Choosing the right service provider is as important as choosing the right alarm. The many different companies offering care alarms vary widely in the services they offer, ranging from relatively basic through to full service providers.
One of the key things to look for in a service provider is the help they offer in identifying the best alarm model for you. This service is a genuine lifeline and quality really counts. Some providers offer a ‘one size fits all’ product, which they simply post out to you and leave the rest up to you. More conscientious providers will visit the prospective wearer personally, take the time to assess their needs and then help the wearer make an informed decision. These providers also tend to offer a professional installation rather than expecting you or your family to struggle with wires and cables. The installer will be able to accurately identify the optimal location in the home for the alarm receiver unit and ensure that it is functioning properly. They will also be able to help with paperwork, making sure all relevant information, such as medical details, are recorded for use by the emergency response centre.
Pandemic Service Levels
Providers who simply post equipment out will not have found it necessary to change their method of working, however for those who offer a tailored service, changes to methodology will have been put in place to ensure time is taken to identify the correct alarm solution for the individual, perhaps by unhurried telephone consultation, or by minimal contact installation procedures where self-installation is not possible.
Elderly alarm services have been traditionally provided over analogue telephone lines. By 2025 analogue lines will be phased out and all lines will be digital. It is important to know that emergency alarms will work as lines change. Providers will have to make changes for the alarms to continue providing security after 2025. Helpline particularly have been active in ensuring their service will be fit for the post-analogue telephony, providing digitally enabled alarms which will provide a seamless service as telephone lines are digitalised. GPS/mobile technology also has a prominent role to play as changes are made to telephone lines.
A high-quality 24/7 Emergency Response Centre is another key part of a good service, ask if the response centre is acredited by the TSA, the Technology Enabled Care (TEC) Standards Authority. The best service providers will also offer a customer service telephone line to help with non-emergency questions and troubleshooting. They will also proactively stay in contact with you to ensure the best possible service.
Clarity of pricing is another important factor when selecting a service provider. Make sure the advertised figure does include everything and that there are no hidden costs. Some providers have extra charges for each use of the button or for maintenance and battery replacements. Good providers should be able to give you a clear breakdown of pricing, and include maintenance etc as part of their service. It is also important to know what sort of price rises could occur in future, a good provider will have a clear policy on this. For example, Helpline have committed to never increasing their price by a higher percentage than the state pension increases for that year.
Helpline - For Peace of Mind
Helpline are an established nurse-led full-service provider with a wealth of experience in providing personal alarms for the elderly and vulnerable. We are committed to offering an ongoing 5-star service, beginning with helping you select the best alarm for you or your loved one.
Helpline work tirelessly to ensure that equipment provided is appropriate for the user and their connectivity. Why not give us a call on 03458 247 999 for a no-obligation discussion of your particular situation. Click here to view our alarms and prices
If you would like to read more about how Helpline help the elderly live independently in their own homes, check out our other articles and resources.