Personal alarms allow people to call for assistance if they have an accident or a fall at home. They can help older and less abled people to feel safer at home, and to remain independent for longer. They can also offer peace of mind to family and friends.
Personal alarms are simple to use. They often feature one big button that can be pressed to get help quickly if the user has a problem. They can be worn 24 hours a day. Despite the simple design, they can potentially be a life-saving device if someone has a fall or some other accident when they are alone.
There are several different types of alarms available:
These devices are linked via a standalone unit to a 24-hour monitoring service or to a carer, either in your home or elsewhere.
They feature a simple push button pendant that can be worn around the neck, attached to the wrist like a watch strap or clipped to a belt or clothing. They can also be attached to a mobile phone as an emergency button incorporated into the case. Some services include an extra unit to keep on a bedside table for easy access when in bed.
A number of systems also incorporate a fall detector. This means that if you were to fall over, the unit will automatically send an alert to the call centre or carer that is responding. You can read more about fall alarms below.
Once a call for assistance is sent, some units also allow you to be found via a GPS system. If you’re caring for someone who has dementia and can lose their direction and fail to return home, you can locate them using this device.
As we age, the chances of suffering a fall increase. A fall alarm gives you reassurance that if you do have a fall, help will be available as quickly as possible.
A fall alarm is very similar to a personal alarm. The key difference being that it doesn’t always have to be operated by the person wearing it. Instead, it can use an in-built motion sensor to detect any unexpected fall or downward motion and then send an alert to a call centre or a loved one. Some models allow you to talk directly to the call centre via a two-way speaker.
Most are lightweight and can be worn on the wrist, as a pendant around the neck or clipped on to clothing. Most can be worn in bed, in the bathroom or out and about. Many providers offer models that combine a fall alarm and personal alarm in a single device.
Some local authorities operate community alarm systems for older or disabled residents, sometimes called a lifeline alarm service. There is likely to be a charge for using the service, but this may be subsidised or even free for those assessed as having eligible needs.
Whether you choose a personal alarm, fall alarm or both, if you want to be connected to a 24/7 monitoring service, there will be an ongoing weekly or monthly charge.
The service charge for a personal alarm with monitoring generally ranges from around £120 to £200 per year (excluding VAT). You can pay monthly or annually, with the annual fee working out cheaper than paying a monthly fee. You’ll also usually have to pay an initial, one-off fee for equipment and setup, which can cost anywhere from about £35 to £200.
An alarm that is purely a falls detector is at the lower end of the price range. But an alarm package with an integrated falls alarm will be more expensive than a basic alarm.
It’s worth checking whether your local authority offers a lifeline alarm service, as this may be less expensive than going through a private provider.
Telecare and personal alarms for older people are eligible for VAT relief in the UK if the person using the equipment is disabled or has a long-term illness and any of the following three statements apply:
You don’t qualify if you’re able-bodied or are temporarily disabled.
Think about what type of equipment and level of service you require, as there’s no point paying for more than you need. Here are some of the key things to consider.
If you’re shopping around for a personal alarm, you’ll probably come across the phrase ‘telecare’. Essentially, this means technology that can remotely monitor someone’s activity (usually in their home) and send an alert to a call centre or carer when needed.
Our explains the more sophisticated systems that can combine a personal alarm with various sensors, such as movement sensors or heat sensors. This can alert a carer about a range of situations, such as if you leave the property, slip out of your bed or chair, or appear to be inactive for too long.