How does a PERS work?
How it works is quite simple,
involving only three components: a small radio transmitter (a
light-weight, battery-powered “help” button that can be carried
on a belt or in a pocket, or worn by the user on a chain around
the neck or on a wrist band); a console connecting to the user’s
telephone; and an emergency response center that monitors these
types of calls. When emergency help is needed, such as medical,
fire, or police, the PERS user can press the transmitter’s
“help” button, sending a radio signal to the console (connected
to the user’s telephone). This causes the console to
automatically dial one or more pre-selected emergency telephone
numbers. Most of the systems that exist have the capability of
dialing out, even if the phone is in-use or off-the-hook, making
this a crucially important feature. When an emergency response
center is contacted, the caller is identified, allowing the
center to determine the nature of the emergency, review the
caller’s medical history, and notify the appropriate medical
professionals and/or family/caregiver. If the center can not
contact the caller or determine whether an actual emergency
exists, they will notify emergency providers to go to the
caller’s home, monitoring the situation until the problem is
resolved. Most “help” buttons are waterproof, and can be worn in
the shower or pool.
What exactly is the “emergency
response center,” and where is it located in proximity to my
There are two types of emergency
response centers: provider-based centers which are usually
located in the loved one’s local area and operate out of
hospitals or social service agencies, and then there’s
manufacturer-based centers which usually operate from one
national center. Most emergency response centers are available
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays.
Who gets notified in the event
of an emergency?
At the time your loved one is
first setup with a PERS, a client information form will be
completed. The profile will contain important information of
anyone on the contact list. If no one on the contact list can be
reached, emergency services in your loved one’s area will be
dispatched. Information for the contact list includes:
Keyholder: Yes No
The client information form also
includes your loved one’s medical conditions, allergies,
prescribed medications, doctors information, and any special
If my loved one is in trouble,
and is not in the same room as the PERS console, how will they
Most consoles are quite
sensitive, and in an average-sized home, the emergency response
center is usually able to communicate with your loved one
regardless of what room they’re in. However, there are times
when it may not be possible to communicate with a loved one
because of the extent of an emergency, therefore, medical
emergency professionals like paramedics will be immediately
dispatched to your loved one’s home.
Do PERS have the capability to
If your loved one lives in a
house, most PERS have a range of 200 to 400 feet outside. Remember
that the emergency response center will not be able to speak
with your loved one since they are outside, but they will know
that your loved one is in trouble and will dispatch paramedics
to their house. If your loved one lives in an apartment or
condo, the outdoor range changes because apartment construction
can block the signal from outside. For example, in a large
apartment building, the system will work only inside the home,
yet in other apartments, condo's, and town homes it can work
like it does in a single family home. This is why it’s so
important to test the range of the PERS, in order to know the
coverage area of your loved one’s system.
How will emergency personnel get
into my loved one’s home?
If emergency personnel need to
be called to your loved one’s home, the emergency response
center will also contact any friends, neighbors, or family
members from your loved one’s contact list that have a key to
their home, and who live close enough to meet a rescue team at
your loved one’s door.
What happens if the electricity
Most PERS have a battery back-up
that will operate the unit for several hours after a power
outage. When the power is restored, the battery automatically
recharges, and is then ready for any additional power outages.
Can I set-up the PERS for my
loved one, or does it have to be professionally installed?
Many PERS are designed to
install quite easily, much like a standard answering machine,
however, every company is different, so find out up-front,
because it may save your loved one money.
Does my loved one need
a special phone jack in order to have a PERS?
For most systems, it’s not
necessary to have any special type of jack or wiring. Usually a
regular, modular phone jack is all that’s needed in order to
plug the alarm into, and it will not affect the phone or any
other item plugged into the jack.
What if my loved one still has
a rotary phone system? Will the PERS still work?
Almost every PERS is able to
work with either a rotary/pulse or tone phone line. Just be sure
that your loved one notifies the company before everything is
connected, so that they will know what kind of phone system they
are going to be working with.
Can my loved one take their
PERS with them if they move?
PERS companies usually ask for
a written notice within 24 hours of a move, in order to update
your loved one’s file with the new address and telephone number.
What happens if my loved one
accidentally sets-off the alarm?
If this should occur, your
loved one needs to tell the emergency response center operator
that the alarm has been set-off accidentally. The operator will
then disconnect the alarm and no further action would be taken.
What if my loved one lives in a
remote, rural area? Is there coverage available?
If your loved one lives in a
rural area, it is most likely best to go with a PERS that works
from a manufacturer-based center, operating from one, national
center company, enabling your loved one to have service
anywhere. All that is required is that your loved one have
telephone service available in their location.
What’s the total cost of a PERS?
The device can be purchased,
rented, or leased. The purchase prices normally range from $200
to more than $1500. There may also be a small installation fee,
and definitely a monthly monitoring charge that can range
anywhere from $10 to $50. Devices can also be rented for from
$15 to $50 per month, which usually includes the monitoring
service. Lease agreements can be long-term or can include an
option to buy. Some contracts have a cancellation charge.
However, you should beware of companies that don't set a fixed
price for their equipment, because they may set a price based on
a percentage of the value of a loved one’s house or yearly
What type of contract or
agreement must be signed for service?
Every PERS company is
different, but there are those who don’t require a long-term
agreement, and only have an initial six month term, after which
your loved one can cancel service anytime, without penalty or
cancellation fees, and with just a 30 day notification.
Are PERS covered by Medicare,
Medicaid, or insurance companies?
Usually not, but if your loved
one has a prescription for a medical alarm, payment arrangements
might be made between your loved one and the company providing
their health insurance. Some times a health insurance company
will reimburse your loved one after they initially pay the total
Is it possible for me to order
a PERS for my loved one, but have the bill sent to me?
PERS companies usually have no
problem with this, requiring billing instructions and
information pertaining to you instead of your loved one.
How often is my loved one
There are as many different
ways to pay for a PERS as there are companies, so it is
important to find out, up-front, what kind of payments are
expected for the monitoring services. Will it be monthly
billing? Will the initial cost of the PERS unit also include a
month or two of service? If you go with a service that allows
month-to-month payments, you will usually encounter very little
problem or penalty should you need to cancel the service. Some
also allow you to pay either annually (12 months at-a-time),
semi-annually (six months at-a-time), or quarterly (every three
What other features do PERS
Many of the systems include
daily reminder notification, regarding medications,
and appointments. Some systems
also offer several benefits for loved ones who have different
disabilities, like hearing impairment, visual impairment, and
those who have mobility challenges. Some of these features
include handsets that are hearing aid compatible, flashing
keypad for incoming calls, oversized keypad numbers, and
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