Personal alarms are wearable devices that the elderly can use to get help if they fall, become ill, or get lost. In this guide, we explain everything you need to know about different types of personal alarms, their benefits, and the features you should consider before purchasing one.
What Are Personal Alarms for the Elderly?
A personal alarm is a device that alerts a response center or family member when the person wearing it needs help. All the user needs to do is press the emergency button which will then either sound an alarm to notify others in the same home or connect the user with a monitoring team.
When alerted, emergency personnel automatically obtains information about the user’s identity, location, and emergency contacts, as well as shared medical information. They will then determine what’s wrong and provide assistance within minutes.
A personal alarm offers reassurance and a sense of security to seniors, anyone living alone or suffering from chronic health conditions or disabilities, and people recovering from surgery.
Benefits of personal alarms for the elderly
Personal alarms allow the elderly to continue living independently in their own homes for longer, giving them and their families peace of mind knowing that if they should need assistance, help is only a button press away.
Other benefits of personal alarms include:
- Assistance is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and the user is guaranteed immediate help in case of an emergency.
- Personal alarm devices allow the elderly to be rushed to the emergency room sooner and receive timely care, which increases the chance of quick recovery.
- The use of personal alarms has been shown to reduce the fear of falling in the elderly, which might cause them to become less active.
- Some personal alarms have mobile technology which allows users to wear them both in the house and outside. The average range of these devices is up to 650 feet.
- Personal alarm systems are very easy to set up and install, and straightforward to use. They usually feature a large button that the user can press to get help quickly in case of an emergency.
- Some models include advanced features, such as voice-to-voice function and GPS tracking. Others also offer all the features you’d find in a smartwatch, including support for third-party apps.
- Personal alarms are lightweight and discreet and can be worn like a watch or necklace.
- Depending on the model, they don’t require a telephone line or electrical outlet.
Personal alarms may be useful tools for the elderly, but you may be wondering whether they really work and what their downsides are. Keep reading to learn more.
Do Personal Alarms Really Work?
A personal alarm purchased from a reputable brand will successfully notify a response center that will provide immediate help. However, there are some things you should keep in mind before investing in a personal alarm for your loved one:
- Although personal alarms can alert family or care services in case of an emergency, they don’t prevent accidents such as falls.
- If your parent becomes incapacitated or is otherwise physically unable to activate the alarm, there is no way to alert of a fall, unless the device is equipped with a fall sensor.
- Some personal alarms are triggered only by very hard falls. Others don’t pick up collapses, which are the most common types of falls.
- Certain types of personal alarms need to be charged regularly, which can be a challenge for the elderly.
- Alarms on traditional pendant devices with a single emergency button can go off accidentally, for example, when the user is asleep.
Types of Personal Alarms
There are two main types of personal alarms: a pendant worn around the neck and a smartwatch worn on the wrist. Here’s what you should know about each one.
Pendant-style alarms are worn around the neck. Basic models have a large SOS button that’s easy to press during an emergency, in addition to individual call buttons on the side. In more advanced models, alarms are automatically triggered by a fall, even without pressing the button.
Some pendant-style personal alarms have display screens that provide a contacts list, give feedback on the remaining battery charge, and more. On the downside, pendant-style alarms with screens are slightly heavier and have shorter battery life than simpler models.
Smartwatch-style personal alarms are designed to be worn on the wrist like a watch. These devices use a touchscreen interface and may also have a small SOS button on the side. It is usually possible to customize the appearance of a smartwatch-style alarm with different watch faces and install third-party apps. However, smartwatch-style alarms have touch screens with detailed settings and contact menus, which can make them more challenging to use for the elderly.
How to Choose the Best Personal Alarm
Here are some things you should consider when choosing a personal alarm:
Some personal alarms come with a volume-adjusting mode that allows the user to choose the volume of the sound emitted in the case of an emergency. As a general rule, you should get a device with a loud, clearly audible alarm, so that the wearer is able to access the help as fast as possible.
Fall detection capabilities
An integrated fall detector is one of the most important elements to look for when choosing the best personal alarm for your loved one. This function identifies the fall and immediately sends out an alert to emergency contacts and services, even when the person is not able to push the help button.
Every personal alarm is slightly different when it comes to features. The most important ones to look for include:
- Speed dial button which allows the user to call preset contacts using the integrated mobile phone
- Longer contact list options
- An integrated microphone that gives the possibility to caregivers to call and chat with the user
- Waterproof design, which means that the device can be worn in the shower where falls are more likely to occur
- A non-movement alarm that issues an alert if the device hasn’t moved for a certain period of time
- A speed alarm that issues an alert if the device suddenly starts moving very quickly
- Batteries that don’t need charging
- Notification when the battery is low
- Lifetime warranty and free repairs.
Affordability and cost
Most personal alarms come with a set-up cost and a monthly fee that includes 24/7 monitoring and assistance from a support team. The fee is typically between $20 and $50, but the exact amount will depend on the level of service you choose.
Other costs may include:
- Installation fees when you purchase a complete personal alarm system
- Add-ons, such as fall detection, the ability to add on another user, additional pendants, or a dedicated support
- Repairs and replacements.
Although personal alarms can be pricey, the good news is that even the more affordable models are still highly functional and will provide you and your loved ones with a sense of security.
Now that you know about the benefits of personal alarms and their common features, you can start looking for a personal alarm system that best meets your loved one’s needs. Here are our top choices.
Top 5 Best Personal Alarms for the Elderly
Below, we list the best personal alarms to help you with your buying decision.
1. Life Line 24
The Life Line 24 discrete pendant-style alarms can be worn either as a necklace or as a bracelet. Although the alarms are highly functional, you should keep in mind that some models don’t include a fall detector. This is one of the most affordable personal alarm systems on the market.
2. Life Alert
Life Alert offers high-quality reliable personal alarms and accessories. Pendant-style alarms are equipped with batteries that last for up to 10 years and don’t need charging. In addition, these alarms are fully waterproof and include a single large button to call assistance in an emergency.
3. Telecare 24
Telecare 24 offers a wide range of waterproof pendant and smartwatch personal alarm systems and accessories. Some pendant models include a fall detector, inbuilt speakers, GPS tracking, and epileptic seizure detection.
One Call Alert produces a range of personal alarm pendants, as well as complete personal alarm systems. All devices are waterproof and include a wide range of features such as fall detection, medication reminder option, and GPS tracking that allows family members to remotely track the location and health of the user.
The Mindme pendant and smartwatch personal alarms are among the most stylish and effective personal alarms available. In addition to featuring an emergency button, smartwatch-style alarms can tell the time and date and count the user’s steps. This brand also offers simpler models specially designed for people with dementia and learning difficulties. However, Mindme alarms don’t include fall detectors, since the company specializes in GPS location tracking technology.