Basic personal alarms
Personal alarms allow people to call for assistance if they have an accident or a fall at home. They can help older and less abled people to feel safer at home, and to remain independent for longer. They can also offer peace of mind to family and friends.
The most basic personal alarms make a loud noise when activated, alerting people nearby that there is a problem. They are very cheap to buy, but do rely on someone being close by to help.
There are also call buttons that send a signal to a carer’s pager, which can be clipped to their belt or clothing. These have a limited range, so still rely on someone being in the vicinity to help.
At night, the pager sits in a charging unit next to the carer’s bed and if the carer is a heavy sleeper, a vibrating pillow alert can also be attached to some units to help wake them.
Alarms that send a signal for assistance
These are devices that are linked via a standalone unit to a 24-hour monitoring service or to a carer, either in your home or elsewhere.
These systems feature a simple push button that is worn around your neck or wrist, or clipped to a belt or clothing. They can also be attached to a mobile phone as an emergency button incorporated into the case.
A number of the systems also have a falls detector incorporated. This means that if you were to fall over, the unit will automatically send an alert to the carer or centre that is responding. Once a call for assistance is sent, the unit also allows you to be found via the GPS system.
If you’re caring for someone who has dementia, and can lose their direction and fail to return home, you can locate them using the GPS system.
Our guide to telecare systems explains about more sophisticated models that can connect to a number of sensors, such as door sensors or a bed /chair sensor. This enables the carer to give assistance if you leave the property or get out of your bed or chair.
Choosing and buying a personal alarm
- Personal alarms are available from a large number of organisations, including local authorities, charities such as Age UK and commercial companies.
- Think about what type of equipment and level of service you require, as there’s no point paying for more than you need.
- Take time to compare brands and prices to find the best one to suit your needs.
- Check the range if you plan to wear it in the garden.
- Ask how long the batteries will last for; how will you know if they’re running low and whose responsibility it is to replace them?
- If you choose a wearable device, is it waterproof? You’ll probably want to wear it in the bathroom.
- You might need a keysafe (a lockable box outside your home with a spare door key inside) so that authorised people can get into your home if the alarm is sounded. You can buy these separately or from the company providing the personal alarm. We strongly recommend that you buy a police-approved keysafe. It may be more expensive, but it’s likely to be more reliable.
- Check that the company you’re buying from is a member of the Telecare Services Association. They offer advice and information as well as a directory of providers.
Read more about memory aids for dementia in Which? Home & garden, which includes recommendations for the best gadgets to help people living with dementia.
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