By Sandra Fuson, Staff Writer
Constance reached out for
help to a local community service organization when she fell
from her bed. Weighing a little over 200 pounds, Constance was
unable to get up on her own and needed someone to help her get
up. Firemen had been to her home earlier in the week, and would
help her once again on this particular day. Yet Constance could
not continue to rely on the fire department for help. The first
time the fire department arrived, they broke through a door to
get into the home, and now Constance faced a costly repair to
make her home safe again.
“I used to have a home
provider, but I couldn’t afford it anymore,” she stated. “If I
had someone to help me with a few things around the house, maybe
I wouldn’t have to ask for help for things like this. It’s
Individuals who are 65 or
older face frightening statistics – falls are the leading cause
of death according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
There are many alternative devices that can be used today. Some
can be worn on the body and others can be placed strategically
throughout the home. The key factor is finding a way to keep the
elderly and disabled safe in their homes in order to prevent a
Individuals like Constance
who do not have someone in the home to help him or her or do not
have a close support network may need the help that a personal
emergency response system (PERS) can provide. PERS can be used
to summon help in the event of a fall, even calling emergency
workers if needed. Plus, the additional repair work Constance
faced would not be needed if someone knew how to gain access to
the house or knew that Constance had left a key with the
neighbor across the street.
What is PERS?
A simple PERS device can be
placed on a tabletop or worn to allow your loved one increased
independence. A single push of a button can let attendants at
the PERS monitoring station know that help is needed. Phones are
not usually necessary. There are more sophisticated systems, of
course, that allow increased home monitoring, such as whether or
not someone has wandered from home or if they have fallen in an
upstairs bedroom. There are even PERS devices that allow a
monitoring station to determine if someone took their medicine
at a particular time.
Convincing someone to use a
PERS device may be a challenge in the beginning until they are
accustomed to the idea and accept it as part of their daily
routine. There are some individuals who do not see the benefit
of PERS or feel that the expense cannot be justified. For those
individuals, there are several tactics that you can try to get
them to understand why PERS can be beneficial to them.
It’s the Smart Choice:
In 2005, researchers
reported in Nursing Economics that the median hospital cost at
more than $9,300 for an elderly person who suffered injuries in
a fall. This cost can soar if injuries are exacerbated by the
person’s inability to get help immediately after the fall has
taken place. In addition, the total cost of a fall could exceed
$19,000, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention,
once the costs of home health care and physical therapy are
considered. Finally, the risk of early death is increased with
one major fall episode.
Logically speaking, the cost
of a PERS could easily be offset by the cost of one
hospitalization for a broken hip or other serious injury from a
fall. In addition, if your loved one is alone most of the day,
they may appreciate the comfort of knowing someone can contact a
loved one in the event that they are not able to use the phone
or cannot remember a phone number.
It’s the Safe Choice:
As the number of individuals
who are aging and choosing to remain in their homes (also known
as aging in place) increases, the likelihood of needing
assistance at some point also increases. According to the 2001
American Housing Survey, more than 21.8 million households have
someone who is at least 65 years of age or older. In addition,
46% of those households are made up of individuals who live
alone. Many of these houses are aging or are multi-story
buildings, including apartment complexes.
While it is a salute to
America’s health care system that aging individuals are able to
live in their homes for longer, the question of being safe is
also an issue. Long distance caregivers especially worry what
will happen to their loved ones should an accident in the
household occur. With a PERS in place, this anxiety is lessened,
allowing more freedom of mobility and worry-free days.
For Those with Dementia:
Recognizing that not all
individuals are able to make the choice for themselves, the
Alzheimer’s Association has developed a list of recommendations
for how to convince someone to wear a Safe Return ID that can be
easily customized to PERS devices. Many of today’s PERS devices
will signal if someone has wandered too far from home or if they
have fallen, without pushing any buttons or otherwise
interacting with the device. Many of these devices can be worn
as necklaces or bracelets and are unobtrusive on a daily basis.
Try these suggestions:
Give the device as a
Introduce it at several different points of the day until your
loved one establishes a comfort level with it.
Wear something similar
Ask your doctor to give it
to them. Sometimes a person in authority may have better luck
convincing them than you.
See if it’s possible to
attach the device to a piece of clothing or the lining of a
sweater they wear every day.
The technology available
today makes almost any type of PERS device readily available in
the home. Finding a way to convince your loved one can be
challenging at times. If your loved one has a chronic illness or
lives without immediate support, a PERS system is an investment
that is well worth the money. The peace of mind and security
that come from knowing help is only a few minutes away is
Constance would agree. She
called and had a PERS system installed so that the next time she
needed assistance, the monitoring station would call the next
door neighbor with the key to her house to help her instead of
the local fire department. This decision proved easier and much
more cost-effective. She no longer felt embarrassed asking for
help and knew that if she needed help, she only needed to push a
button and help would be available within moments.