Personal alarms offer remote support to older adults, people with disabilities and those who are less physically able. They allow users to call for help if they suffer a fall, feel unwell or need emergency assistance.

Personal alarms are usually monitored by an emergency resolution centre so that friends and family, or the emergency services, can be notified straight away if a loved one activates their alarm.

How can personal alarms help you care for elderly loved ones?

Looking after an elderly loved one is never simple. Most adult children have families of their own, and many elderly people have complex care needs that require a lot of time and energy to manage properly.

Personal alarms help you meet these needs without feeling overstretched, and allow carers to get on with life safe in the knowledge that if something goes wrong, or a loved one falls ill, they’ll be notified right away. Other benefits of elderly care alarms include:

Faster response times 
Better health outcomes
Greater peace of mind – 74% of carers feel less stressed after a loved one joins a personal alarm service

Elderly man in his kitchen with a loved one

What should a personal alarm be used for?

Thousands of families use personal alarms across the UK. The reasons vary from household to household, but the most common are:

Falls

Falls are very common among older age groups. Changes in muscle strength, hearing health and vision make older people much more susceptible to falling over.

Fall alarms feature clever sensors that monitor the wearer’s movements. If the alarm detects a sudden jerk or heavy impact, it can send an alert to the user’s emergency contacts, allowing friends and family or a team of telecare professionals to handle the situation.

Serious health conditions

As we get older, our chances of developing a serious health condition like heart disease increase. Having a personal alarm means that if you feel unwell or require the emergency services, you can send for help at the press of a button, removing the need for 999 calls and providing your details over the phone.

Staying active

Maintaining an active lifestyle in later life is very important. Staying active in your 70s and 80s is proven to reduce your chances of age-related diseases and is strongly linked to cognitive performance.

Subscribing to a personal alarm service can make older adults feel more confident doing everyday tasks, keeping them active and prolonging their physical and mental health.

Cognitive disorders

Cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease can affect those in their 30s and 40s but are most common in people over the age of 65. These conditions make it harder for elderly people to look after themselves and can sometimes lead to wandering.

GPS personal alarms are ideal for families where wandering is an issue. If the wearer gets lost, their telecare provider can use the alarm to establish their location and send for help.

What technologies do personal alarms for the elderly use?

Personal alarms contain a variety of different technologies to keep the user safe. The most frequent are:

Accelerometers

Accelerometers are used in fall detectors and personal alarm watches. They allow the device to sense minute changes in direction and speed to work out if the user has suffered a fall. If a wearer is inactive immediately following a fall, most fall alarms are programmed to send for help automatically.

Roaming SIM cards

Inside every mobile phone is a SIM card. These usually connect to the user’s mobile network, allowing them to access the internet and make calls.

The roaming SIM cards that are used in most personal alarms are very similar to traditional SIM cards but have the added benefit of being able to connect to multiple networks. This allows the personal alarm to connect to the strongest network available and makes it possible for telecare providers to find the wearer’s GPS location.

Long-lasting or rechargeable batteries

As personal alarms are designed to be used in an emergency, it’s vital that they don’t run out of battery. Most in-home personal alarms feature batteries that last several years, and portable alarms usually come with rechargeable batteries that last up to two months on a single charge.

Speakerphones

Speakerphones combine microphones with loudspeakers so the user can have a two-way conversation with someone else. They are commonly used in GPS alarms, intercoms and alarm base units.

Radio transmitters

Radio transmitters are normally found inside pendant alarms. They allow the device to send and receive digital signals from the base unit. These signals can be safety checks that ensure the alarm is working properly or SOS alerts that notify your emergency contacts that you need help.

Cases where personal alarms have saved elderly people

Mrs A falls in the garden

Mrs A lived alone. Her daughter lived a short drive away, but the family decided to invest in a personal alarm system as Mrs A wasn’t as steady on her feet as she used to be.

One evening, Mrs A’s daughter received a notification on her smartphone that said her mother had activated her pendant alarm. Mrs A’s daughter knew something wasn’t right so she got in her car, drove the short distance to her mother’s house, and used her mother’s key safe to gain access to her property.

Older women sitting down drinking coffee

After looking around her home, Mrs A’s daughter eventually went into the garden and found her mother on the floor, where it looked like she had tripped over a flower pot.

Mrs A had been stuck on the floor for at least 20 minutes and was starting to shiver. Her daughter quickly called the emergency services and got a blanket from indoors to keep her mother warm.

After being checked over at the hospital, Mrs A and her family were told that she hadn’t sustained any serious injuries and could return home. Mrs A was shaken after the incident but was glad she’d been wearing her personal alarm. Without it, she could have suffered hypothermia and needed to stay in hospital for longer.

How easy is an alarm to activate and use?

Personal alarms are specially designed for ease of use. They don’t require a great deal of technological competence, and in most cases the only part of the device that users need to operate is the panic button.

Panic buttons tend to be located on the front of the device and are usually recessed to prevent accidental activations. If a loved one has limited dexterity, a short button extender can be added to their alarm to make it easier for them to use.

If you are worried about installing your device, most personal alarm services will set up your alarm for a small fee.

How much should a personal alarm for the elderly cost?

Whether you choose a standard alarm unit, a fall detector or GPS alarm, you will need to pay an ongoing monthly charge to receive 24-hour monitoring.

The cost of telecare equipment with 24/7 monitoring generally costs between £350 and £400 per year, although this is often cheaper if you pay annually. You will also need to pay a one-off setup fee to cover the cost of registering with your provider.

What should you consider before purchasing a personal alarm?

One of the first things you should ask a telecare provider is if they monitor their devices or outsource their monitoring to a third party. In-house monitoring isn’t as common as you might expect and it can make a big difference to the standard of service you receive.

Another important factor that you should consider before investing in a safety alarm is how your elderly relative will feel. Older people sometimes have reservations about using telecare devices so it’s important that you have an open and frank discussion with your loved one before joining. Forging ahead without consulting them could be costly and endanger their safety.