This question is my most commonly asked when talking with families of older individuals. COVID has also impacted our life of less visiting and taking care of loved ones. One suggestion I have and may be very useful is called a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS).

A PERS is a wearable device in the form of a necklace, wristband, or watch band that you can press to access emergency help. There are MANY brands; Life Alert, LifeLine, ADT, and many others. Our area has a new provider available, ConnectAmerica and they are worth considering.

When activated, the monitoring systems dials for help and connects to a call center. They talk to you through the machine attached to your phone line or through the device itself. They work through either your landline or cell towers. You don’t need a cell phone to use these systems. Once contacted, these call centers then dispatch your family, caregiver or emergency services when necessary.

The PERS is designed to allow you to call for help without having to use or dial a phone. The classic scenario we think of is; “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Some other examples or using their PERS are. “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 family or friends, an example they arrive and find 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 that the individual is wear the pendant/button. If the pendant is left sitting on the counter, hanging on the bedpost or in the bathroom on the vanity, it is NOT going to be near them when they need it.

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 attention should be made when considering your personal phone service, cell signals, WIFI, and more.

There are also systems that involve video monitoring. These often allow you to talk back and forth with each other in addition to seeing what is happening. The video monitor usually requires WIFI within the home, and not all homes have that. Video monitoring brings the ability to ‘see’ what is happening to a much higher level. Not all situations call for this type of monitoring.

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 the Office For the Aging has contracts with regulated pricing for residents. 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 products with extra bells and whistles but you and your family should consider if the benefit is worth the added cost. I recommend researching your options.