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Personal alarms and its benefits for older people

Craving security, safety and peace of mind when you become frailer is very common for older people. Personal alarms, also known as panic alarms or medical alarms, are one such product that can assist you in feeling safe while in your home or out in the community.

Last updated: November 18th 2022
Even if you haven’t had a fall, you can press the button on your personal alarm device to call for help if you need it. [Source: iStock]

Even if you haven’t had a fall, you can press the button on your personal alarm device to call for help if you need it. [Source: iStock]

Key points:

  • Independence can be really important to older Australians and personal alarms can be a non-invasive way to provide them with an added sense of security

  • Personal alarms can detect falls and call for help in an emergency

  • There are varying types of personal alarms that can be worn in different ways

Research has shown that personal alarms can support the independence of an older person while also reducing serious outcomes of a fall or medical emergency.

Since independence is very important to older Australians, having products to support that right can be really beneficial.

Not only that, personal alarms can give family and friends reassurance that you are safe and are able to continue doing the things you love without being interrupted.

How they work

Personal alarms, watches or pendants can be worn by a person, like around the neck or on your wrist, and can either detect falls, provide assistance through immediate access to help, or both.

They are designed to be non-invasive, hardy, accessible, responsive, and, in some cases, stylish.

Many older people who wear personal alarms don’t necessarily want it to be obvious to others around them. So companies are putting in the effort to make sure they look like normal, everyday things, like watches or bracelets.

These personal alarms can be worn in wet areas, like the bath or shower, as these are common places in the home where slips or accidents might occur.

Even if you haven’t had a fall, you can press the button on your personal alarm device to call for help if you have a medical episode or if something doesn’t feel right.

Depending on the brand, if the alarm detects a fall, it will either contact a nominated person, a call centre may try to contact you to see if you are okay, or call for an emergency service.

Key features of personal alarms

Features of a personal alarm can differ depending on the brand and model you buy, however, they do all have very similar functions, like:

  • Simple to use one-button options for emergency calls

  • A built-in accelerometer, also known as fall detection, can detect if you fall and will either send an automatic alert to someone or call for an ambulance

  • 24/7 emergency response, immediate access to emergency services or a nominated person

  • Some personal alarms have GPS tracking, which can be useful for people with dementia

  • Lightweight devices

  • Personal alarms don’t require internet connection or phone systems (if it doesn’t have an included call centre)

  • Waterproof

When purchasing a personal alarm, make sure to check all the key features, as not all personal alarms are built the same or share the same features as other personal alarms.

Benefits for older people

Falls are one of the main causes of older Australians being injured or hospitalised and is also considered a big problem for elderly people worldwide.

Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognise falls as the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths around the world, with people over the age of 65 have a higher number of fatal falls.

If you fall over at home, the response to your fall will be a lot quicker resulting in less chronic symptoms afterwards.

Research has shown that people who purchase a personal alarm are more likely to take risks and are less likely to reduce their daily activity because they are worried about falls compared to people that don’t own personal alarms.

Overall, the study found that there were more positive outcomes for personal alarm users around feeling safer, more secure, and being more active around their home.

Styles or types

When choosing a personal alarm, you need to choose between having a monitored or non-monitored device. A monitored personal alarm tends to have another attachment installed on your home phone or mobile device.

Some companies may have a 24/7 call line that will contact the user on the other end if a fall is detected or if the panic button is pushed.

The call centre will sort out the best course of action, whether they need an ambulance, require someone to check up on them, or want a family member or friend to come over and help.

If non-monitored, the device will likely contact a nominated person or call an emergency service.

There are usually three different forms of personal alarms you can purchase:

  • Wrist pendant

  • Personal alarm watch

  • Wearable device around the neck

When organising a personal alarm, choose the option that best suits you, if you don’t like having something around your wrist, a necklace-like device might be your better option.

Peace of mind

The main reason older Australians buy personal alarms is due to the peace of mind they get knowing something is looking out for them around their home or out in the community.

These devices can also reduce the calls and messages family and friends receive from their older loved one, as the user feels more comfortable going about their daily business.

Risks are healthy for older adults, as it encourages a person’s mobility. It is important to continue living your daily life with the added security of a personal alarm.

Do you believe a personal alarm will provide you with more peace of mind when you are at home or out in the community? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

Keep mobile and stay independent
How to maintain and improve mobility and reduce falls
What types of respite care are there?

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