Question: With contact restrictions due to COVID-19, I don’t get to see my parents as often as I would like.

I feel like so many activities we do have taken on a new twist or new limitation. COVID-19 and the contact precautions we are using to prevent its spread has changed the way many of us behave each day, including taking care of loved ones. One suggestion I have and I think may be very useful now is called a PERS, a Personal Emergency Response System.

A PERS is a wearable device that you can press to access emergency help. This device is usually on a necklace or wristband, or watchband. There are many different companies that offer this service. You may see them on TV or find them on the internet. There are MANY of them some examples; Life Alert, LifeLine, ADT, and LifeStation. All of these are monitoring systems that when activated dials for help to a call center. Once the call center answers, they talk to you through the machine that is attached to your phone line or through the device itself.

The PERS is designed to allow you to call for help without having using/dialing a phone. The classic scenario we think of is; “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” but there are others.
Stories about using how seniors use their PERS; “My husband was outside and fell down”, “The neighbor’s house is on fire!”, “I think someone is trying to break into my house”, “I can hear someone calling for ‘Help’ and I don’t know what is going on”. All of these scenarios are situations in which a PERS can be useful. All the person does is press a button and the response center will answer immediately.

It also can be used by our family or friends. Your family is coming to visit and finding their loved one in a bad way. They can just press the button and summon help without leaving their side or looking for the phone.

It is important the individual is wears that pendant/button. If the pendant is left sitting on the counter, or hanging on the bedpost or in the bathroom on the vanity, it is NOT going to be near them when they need it.

Most systems require a landline phone system. Though many of these systems are using the cell phone network to be more portable. Once contacted, these call centers then dispatch your family, caregiver or emergency services when necessary.

I really love these monitoring systems and often this is one of my first suggestions when working with a senior and their caregivers. I feel that they give everyone some reassurance that help can be summoned when necessary. It gives the senior support to keep them independent.

In Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties we are very lucky that our Office For the Aging has contracts with regulated pricing for residents of the area. You can find out more about these services by calling your Counties NYConnects line; Chautauqua County 716-753-4582, and Cattaraugus County 716-373-8032.

The cost of the PERS can be significantly different between companies. You can purchase the equipment, lease the equipment and some companies give you the equipment. There will be a monthly monitoring fee.

As with everything we buy, paying more doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting a better service. There are some with extra bells and whistles but you and your family should consider if the benefit is worth the added cost. There is different technology with each system. Some systems ‘detect falls’, or can be used anywhere you are (home, the store, traveling, etc). Other systems are more basic and work inside or around your home (usually 500 feet or so from the house). Special considerations may also need to be addressed when it comes to phone service, cell signals, WIFI, and more.

I recommend researching your options a little bit and then talking with your family.

Senior Life Matters is a community based program sponsored by Lutheran Jamestown. For questions and concerns or to reach Janell Sluga, GCMC, call us at 716-720-9797 or e-mail at