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Caregivers Lifeline

By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 2)

At some point we’ve heard the phrase “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” This keynote phrase first appeared in an advertisement for a service to help elderly or infirm people get emergency help without having to get to the phone. Today, a number of companies offer the Personal Emergency Response System (PERS), which can be a tremendous help to caregivers and loved ones.

Each system has slightly different features, but they operate on the same principle. The handheld remote has a radio transmitter. When the button is pushed, it connects with a companion unit that is tied into a land line phone. The signal comes up at a facility, and trained staff dispatch appropriate assistance.
This type of system requires patient cooperation. Your loved one must be able to understand the purpose of it and how to use it. If your loved one has trouble acclimating to “gadgets” or has trouble learning new tasks, this system may be too much of a challenge for them. However, because of its simplicity, someone with mild learning hurdles can be successful in using it.

For caregivers, knowing that their loved one has autonomy in moving about the home while still being able to call for help can be a stress reliever.
The company you select will have different service options and commensurate pricing. When selecting a company, caregivers can “build” a plan that meets their needs.

Before calling and researching, do a little “dreaming” about the ideal plan. You may know your budget limitations, but don’t cut costs unnecessarily. Make a list of the various options that will put your mind at rest.

Examples of options are:
Prescription reminders
Nationwide and local service
Advanced options on the companion unit (like automatic dialing)
Two-way voice communication


Don’t be sales pressured into in-home meetings or signing contracts if you are still comparing plans. Some companies offer trial periods, but may limit choices. If the limits imposed don’t meet your caregiving needs, move on to another company.
To provide customers with a variety of financial options is one thing, but when plans appear too complex, it may be a red flag. Start with companies recommended by local physicians, senior centers and individuals who have used those companies.

If your loved one is on Medicare or Medicaid, a PERS will not likely be covered. Private insurances also have their rules about coverage. Check with your loved one’s insurance provider(s) to get the most current information, including whether partial or full coverage is possible if a Letter of Medical Necessity would be issued. Consult your tax advisor to learn whether it can be deducted as a medical expense. In some cases, working with a social service agency may be the key. Finding the right agency is a subject to discuss with your loved one’s caseworker. If there is no caseworker help available, allow yourself to do some Internet searching for agencies that help individuals with your loved one’s condition. Advocate services abound in each county, and searching county Web sites provide good information.

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