A personal alarm is the type of device that can offer peace of mind to the elderly, especially those living alone, and to their relatives. They come in several different styles and options; what you select depends a great deal on your needs and location.
Local alarms are fine if you need to summon a neighbour or someone living very close by. Some of them can also be used as personal safety alarms when you’re out, in case of attack.
The personal, or anti-mugging alarm, is useful for alerting people within earshot that you have a problem. It can either be battery of gas operated, and emits a loud noise when the trigger is pulled. They’re readily available at many high street outlets.
There are also local alarms with fixed position transmitters and receivers. In this case the receiver might be outside the front door or located in a neighbour’s house. The transmitters, which can be push buttons or pull cords, are located in fixed positions within the residence. When activated, the alarm sounds a bell or flashing lights. They can also be set up to automatically unlock the front door of the house, allowing quick access for help. Although this system is relatively easy to install and use, its major disadvantages are that you need to be close to the button or cord to summon help, and the other person has to be in a place to hear or see the alarm.
Limited Range Alarms
Alarms with a portable transmitter are best, as they can be worn around the wrist or on a lanyard around the neck. When pressed, these transmit an alarm to a receiver located in another room, outside the house, or in a neighbour’s residence. However, the other person must be within range of the receiver. Some receivers simply plug in, allowing them to be taken on holiday or when visiting friends, and this portability can be a great plus.
There are also systems with portable transmitters and portable receivers, where the carer wears the receiver on the body. Obviously, this gives the carer more mobility, but the range is limited, and you need to be aware of how far it extends.
Some of these devices also have the option of inertia alarms, which means that the alarm is automatically triggered if the wearer doesn’t move within a pre-set period of time. It’s also possible to buy an alarm with a fall detector, which detects the fall, then sends an alarm after a short, pre-set time.
The portability of these systems is their great advantage, in addition to the fact that they operate over greater distances. However, since those distances are limited, they don’t offer a huge amount of freedom.
These are the ideal systems for most people on their own, especially if you’re at risk of falling. The alarm is worn on a pendant around the neck, or on the wrist. When triggered, it sends a signal to a table top alarm in the house. This automatically dials pre-programmed contacts on your phone until it receives a response. The limitation with this is that the response it gets might be an answer phone – it can’t distinguish between a machine and a real person. After receiving a response it stops dialling. The great disadvantage to this, of course, is that if the recipient is gone, the message could be on the machine for hours or days, with the sender lying helpless. Some systems do have the option of calling a 24-hour monitoring service if none of the contacts respond.
However, a system that automatically alerts a monitoring service when the alarm is triggered remains the best option. A central station is alerted and help dispatched immediately.
Many local authorities run alarm schemes, which they provide free of charge. To determine whether you qualify, contact them, or talk to your occupational therapist. Even if they can’t help, it’s possible that, if you purchase a commercial alarm, it can be linked to their centre, which is cheaper than a commercial service.
It’s possible to add additional features and services to commercial system, such as intruder alarms or room temperature alarms (triggered if the temperature falls below a certain level). There are even habit cycle alarms, which prompt you to trigger them twice a day. If you don’t, help is dispatched.
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