Choosing the Right Personal Emergency Response System (PERS)

Choosing the Right Personal Emergency Response System (PERS)

Jim Lipman, GoFind Inc. 

When thinking about Medical Alert Systems, also referred to as Personal Emergency Response Systems, many people flash back to the iconic image of an elderly woman, lying on the floor, saying, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Made famous by Life Alert, the problems associated with seniors who fall are still with us and are even more critical now due to several factors, among them the desire of more seniors to “Age in Place,” often in their own homes, and the spiraling cost of treating fall-related injuries.

With the advances in technology, today’s PERS devices offer so much more than they did even a few years ago. The number of companies offering PERS devices has also increased dramatically, making the decision of which PERS device to buy far more complex than it once was. While falls account for most of emergency room visits by seniors 65 years of age and older, modern PERS devices can do more than just help protect a fallen senior. As with any decision that impacts the health and well-being of a loved one, choosing the best PERS device is very important and requires exploring the desirable features along with the weak points of what is available.

The advantages of a senior having a PERS are many including a relatively low cost, enhancing a senior’s independence, rapid response in case of a medical issue or other problem, peace of mind for the user and caregivers, and uncomplicated usage.

Depending on the mobility and habits of the user, you can choose an in-home PERS device or a mobile one (wrist band or pendant) that uses the cellular network to track the wearer and pinpoint his or her location using GPS and other technologies, and with or without Geofence capability. This class of devices can also include communication to one or more caregivers and a 24/7 call center. A very desirable feature is fall detection for either in-home or mobile devices. While fall detection is not perfect, these systems err to the side of false fall detection rather than not flagging an actual fall.

Many modern PERS devices also feature communication capability with caregivers and alerts for reminders such as taking medication or exercising regularly. Some mobile devices also include AI (artificial intelligence) algorithms that learn a wearer’s habits and will alert a caregiver if a fairly consistent daily activity level, such as number of steps taken, suddenly falls off, which might indicate a medical problem.

Most systems are waterproof and you should not consider getting one that isn’t, since many elderly people fall in the bathroom or kitchen. Battery life is also important, particularly for mobile devices, since battery recharging may have to be done by someone other than the user. Company response time should be researched; several articles have indicated a wide range of response times between popular PERS providers.

Of course, cost is a consideration that should not be overlooked. Most PERS devices have monthly costs (and some have an initial device cost as well) that depend on the features of a particular device. Some also have additional charges for activation and/or cancellation of service since a few require a long-term contract.

GoFind and some other companies are automating the use of advanced technologies to increase the feature-sets of PERS devices while, at the same time, lowering overall user service fees. Voice assistance, IoT technology and AI are being integrated to improve the user’s safety, reduce loneliness and enhance their everyday quality of life.

When caring for a senior or other person with mental or physical handicaps supplying them with the right PERS device for their particular abilities and circumstances is a necessity. A PERS device will decrease a caregiver’s time and expense needed for caring for the senior and also improve the senior’s quality of life by addressing their safety and, for the right PERS devices, companionship needs.

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