PERS System Can Help When Emergencies Occur

Q: I live in the area and help my parents, but I worry about them at night and when I am away. What options are out there for them?

A: As a family member we want the best for our family, young or old. As our parents and family members age, we do as much as we can, but we often can’t be there all the time. There are some useful tools to keeping those seniors safe.

One I often recommend and have had a lot of success with is called a PERS, a Personal Emergency Response System. Now you may not know what that is. Let me explain. This is a button you wear on a necklace, wristband or watchband that you can press and access help. There are many different companies that offer this service. Some common examples that are on TV all the time are: Life Alert, LifeLine, ADT, LifeStation, to name just a few. There are many of them. In fact one of these companies calls my house about once a week to tell me my system is OK and ready to be shipped to me after verifying some information for them.

You too have probably gotten this phone call. All of these systems are monitoring systems which dial to a call center. Once the call center answers, they talk to you though the machine that is attached to your phone line, so you must have a landline phone system. These call centers then dispatch your family, caregiver or emergency services when necessary.

I really love these monitoring systems. I feel that they give you some reassurance that help can be summoned when necessary. It also gives the senior some support to keep them independent.

I don’t love the phone calls to my house trying to sell me a system I don’t need. I worry about how many seniors are agreeing to this system and then paying more than they need to for this service. There are lots of companies that offer this service as I said. They mostly provide the same type of service. The cost can be significantly different. Some companies tell you to purchase the equipment (for about $400) and then there is a monthly monitoring fee as well. Other companies lease you the equipment and a monthly monitoring fee. Some companies provide the equipment and have just a monitoring fee.

I would like you to get the service for as little cost as is necessary and have you and your family comfortable with the system you get. I also want you to use the system when you get it.

In Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties we are very lucky. There is a local provider, Doyle, who is able to supply our seniors with this monitoring service at a very low cost. Doyle also does not require that you purchase the equipment. They have local employees who come to install the system in your home, so you know it is installed correctly. The staff can also return if you have problems with the system or need to understand it better.

In our part of the country I do recommend using Doyle, but all the systems can be useful, so if you have another brand and like it, you don’t need to change.

The PERS is designed to allow you to call for help without having to be able to get to or dial a phone. The classic scenario we think of is: “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” but there are so many other situations that it works perfectly for.

I have had seniors tell me so many stories about using their PERS. Here are just a few:

“My husband was outside shoveling and fell down, I can’t get out to help him.”

“The neighbors’ house is on fire.”

“I think someone is trying to break into my house.”

“I can hear someone outside 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 helps. Now certainly if you can dial 911 you can absolutely do that and get the help you need. Sometimes you can’t get to a phone, or it is in the other room, that button on your wrist or around your neck is the quick response to help that you or your family may need.

It also can be used by our family or friends. I have had stories told to me of family being at the house or 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.

For family members it helps us sleep better at night knowing that mom or dad can get the help they need when they need it. Just be sure that they are wearing that pendant. 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.

I have had seniors who put a hook near their door, so they hang it up when they leave and put it back on when they return. That works fine as long as you remember to put it back on. If it is hanging on the hook near the door and you fall on the stairs, it will be no help.

Using a PERS system is almost always one of my first suggestions if the seniors I talk with don’t already have one. It is a quick and easy way to get some extra support. It is also affordable for most. If you look into this option and feel it is too expensive, look at the Doyle system or call Office For the Aging, they may have some help available to help you pay this 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 and that may make it worthwhile for you, but research the alternatives and decide which one works the best for you.

To contact Janell Sluga, GCMC with questions or concerns, please call 720-9797 or email her at