5 Ways to Ensure a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) Really Works

  1. Watch your parent use the system.

    Personal emergency response systems only work when the help button is pushed. Before signing on the dotted line with a company, make sure your parent can push the button easily and comfortably. While you're at it, make sure she has a transmitter style she's comfortable wearing. If a neck pendant is cumbersome, try a bracelet. If this is annoying, ask the company about other options, like a belt clip.

  2. Change the transmitter batteries regularly, as advised by the battery manufacturer.

    PERS transmitters -- the portable pendant or bracelet with the help button -- are battery-operated, like a TV remote control. They send a wireless signal to the console, which, in turn, calls the service center through the telephone line. As the transmitter's battery life weakens, it becomes less efficient, similar to a flashlight that gets dimmer over time. Many companies automatically check battery strength and let you know when it's low. Some even send you a new battery free of charge.

  3. Ask your PERS provider how often it tests its system.

    All complex electronic networks, like 911 dispatch centers, have occasional glitches -- things break down or go haywire. Well-run networks conduct system checks routinely to ensure that everything is running smoothly. As a customer, you have the right to know how often your company conducts system checks. If it hedges or says outright that it doesn't do checks, it's time to look for a company that does.

  4. Regularly test your home PERS system.

    Many service providers let your parent do test runs right after installing the equipment and on a routine basis after that. A test run provides reassurance that the system is working, and it also lets your parent practice using it. If the company doesn't allow test runs or charges for them, you may want to find a company with a different policy.

  5. Keep your parent's PERS database updated

    The effectiveness of an emergency response system depends on the company having up-to-date records on your parent, including age, address, contact names and numbers, and medical condition. This is the information that pops up on the computer if and when your parent pushes the help button. Make an effort to provide the company with regular updates, and be sure to contact it after any significant change, such as a medical event or a move.

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