Reasons for Getting your Aging Mom and Dad a PERS Device

With our aging population and a desire for seniors to age in place, often doing so alone, there needs to be a mechanism for an elder to get help for several reasons. With the isolation from caregivers and family that many seniors are experiencing during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, this is particularly true. This is why the use of a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) device, also called a medical alert device, is so important for our vulnerable senior citizens. There are several ways a PERS device helps keep a person safe.

Fall Detection

One in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year. Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall and every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall. Statistics show that death rate rises exponentially as the time between a fall and the arrival of medical help increases. Seniors are not only more prone to falling than younger persons, but they are also more susceptible to fall-related injuries such as a broken hip or head trauma.

The first-generation medical alert devices had only one way for a person who has fallen to summon help – by pushing an SOS button on the unit (often worn as a pendant around the neck). The button, when pushed, would contact a call center (using a base unit in the home and a telephone line). The person at the call center you received the medical device alert would then send assistance to the user’s home. By today’s standards, this mechanism to summon help would be considered completely inadequate, since there would be many instances where the fallen person would not be able to access the button due to injury or mental confusion.

Many modern medical alert devices use a combination of state-of-the-art sensors and sophisticated algorithms to detect when a fall has occurred and send alerts to a 24/7 call center and to one or more caregivers.  With fall detection, if you happen to fall and can’t get to a phone or even to your help button, someone will get an alert that you have fallen – a caregiver and/or a c24/7 call center.


Although no automatic fall detection is perfect – some false falls will be flagged and a small number of real falls not detected – automatic fall detection is proven to be a good way to get help to a senior who has fallen. This is important!

To mitigate the occurrence of a false fall, a medical alert device should have a way to verify if a fall actually occurred and, if so, did the person who fell need assistance? If help is needed, the appropriate responders are then contacted. If the PERS device also has GPS capability, the exact location of the fallen individual can then be pinpointed, either inside the home or if the device has roaming capability, outside the home as well.


Click on this link to read what the National Council on Aging (NCOA) has to say about older adult falls.


SOS Communication

Falls are not the only reason a senior might need assistance. If they are lost or have suffered a medical emergency, they need to contact a caregiver and/or call center for help – this is where an SOS button on the device is needed. Pushing the SOS button will summon essential assistance. Some PERS devices augment the SOS button with the capability for a senior to yell for help, providing an additional way to request aid.

Lost or Missing

When we age, to varying degrees, our mental abilities deteriorate. Dementia in seniors accelerates this decline and, too often, an elder will become confused or lost when they have left the house.


Many medical alert devices use GPS technology to determine when a person has left a pre-defined area (GeoFence), such as a place of residence or the immediate surroundings. A caregiver can then determine, using a map on their smartphone, exactly where the wandering senior is and go to them.


Click here to read about what the American Psychological Association (ASA) says about dementia and senior forgetfulness.


Some newer PERS devices have reminder capability, letting the senior know about important times such as when they have appointments with doctors or need to take medications, along with prompts for other activities.


In summary, there are several reasons why an aging senior might need a PERS device:

  • They are aging in place in their own home, either by themselves or with another person that cannot take on the role of a live-in caregiver

  • They are of risk of injury if they fall, either due to a past history of falls or they have a physical or mental condition that makes it likely that they will fall

  • They have a health condition that requires rapid assistance if they suffer a medical emergency

  • Having a medical alert device installs confidence and increases a feeling of independence in the user and gives peace of mind to both user and caregiver

The initial cost of a medical alert device and it’s monitoring service is relatively low but the benefits it will provide are well worth the expense.

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