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 assistance.
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
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 appropriate.
Examples of assistive devices
Pillow Switch that
can be pinned to a pillow and activated by a controlled head
Wobble Switch that
can be activated by gross body or head movements coming from any
Rocker Lever 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 control.
P-Switch, which 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
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.
Read your purchase,
rental, or lease agreement carefully before signing.
Questions to Ask the Response
Is the monitoring
center available 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
What is the average
What kind of training
does the center staff receive?
What procedures does
the center use to test systems in your home? How often are tests
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:
The MSF Assistive Technology
Programís number is 888-MSFOCUS (673-6287).
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