By Rosalie Okaty
Would you or a loved one
benefit from a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS)? A PERS
is an electronic device designed to allow people with
disabilities or older people living alone to summon help in an
People use PERS for various
reasons, such as general concerns about falling, needing
reminders about when to take medications, or to allow loved ones
or caregivers to run errands or go out for a while without
worry. Others, like John, may have medical conditions that
affect their ability to be alone and still be able to call for
John had in-home care nearly
all the time, but his caregiver had taken a quick trip to the
pharmacy to pick up his medications. Suddenly, he needed help,
but found himself all alone. He hadnít been in this position
for as long as he could remember and he was frightened by his
feelings of fear and helplessness.
Thanks to a PERS, John was
able to call for help that responded in just seconds. Once he
pressed the button he wore around his neck, remote call
answering began communicating with John without him ever having
to get to the phone.
The call for help was
received at a centrally monitored response center, where trained
response associates have complete access to Johnís personal
profile and critical information. They quickly found out why
John needed help and took action.
The response center can
assess the situation and get help from a close neighbor or
family member, or an ambulance, fire, or police department, when
needed. If John had been unable to indicate his needs,
emergency help would have been dispatched immediately.
Not only do PERs devices
provide peace of mind to the person with limited physical
abilities, but caregivers can also feel secure in knowing that
their friend or family member is well cared for. Continuous
caregiving can lead to exhaustion, putting the friend or family
member at risk. Having reliable help just seconds away is a
comfort to everyone.
Aside from the two-way voice
communicator, a selection of specially designed assistive
devices can be used with a PERS to give individuals with
neuromuscular disabilities the ability to call for help. An
assessment by an occupational or physical therapist may be
needed to determine which assistive device would be most
Examples of assistive
that can be pinned to a pillow and activated by a controlled
that can be activated by gross body or head movements coming
from any direction.
Switch that is activated by gross hand, arm or body
movements or by a mouth or head stick.
Sip or Puff
Switch that is activated by sipping or puffing on a tube
depending on availability of breath control or respiratory
is activated by minimal movement, detected by small sensors
(set by the user) and can be placed on any part of the body
capable of minimal motion.
There are a variety of PERs
available. Many charge a monthly fee and a one-time set-up fee.
Others require you to sign a three-month, six-month or
year-long-lease, while others offer rental opportunities. To
navigate the maze of PERs, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
offers the following suggestions:
Check out several
systems before making a decision.
Find out if you
can use the system with other response centers. For example,
can you use the same system if you move?
Ask about the
pricing, features, and servicing of each system and compare
Make sure the
system is easy to use.
Test the system
to make sure it works from every point in and around your
home. Make sure nothing interferes with transmissions.
purchase, rental, or lease agreement carefully before
Questions to Ask the
Is the monitoring
center available 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
What is the
average response time?
What kind of
training does the center staff receive?
does the center use to test systems in your home? How often
are tests conducted?
The FTC works for the
consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business
practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help
consumers spot, stop and avoid them. For free information on
consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free,
1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.
The MSF Assistive Technology
Programís number is 888-MSFOCUS (673-6287).