Monday, 2 July 2012

3 things that carers need to consider when purchasing alarms for elderly or disabled relatives

Personal alarms for the elderly and disabled people are designed to give peace of mind to those at risk and their families and carers through their functions. Variety in types of alarms, the way they’re marketed online and geo-location of the call centres can make it difficult for carers to decide which system works best for their loved ones. Based on our experience and talks with carers we’re highlighting 3 equally important points that are crucial when purchasing an alarm for an elderly or disabled relative:

1) The personal alarm unit: The unit is one of the most important aspects of the service and they’re expected to function reasonably well when required. The best way to find out about the function of these devices is to ask providers the right questions. The following questions can help:
  • Is two way communication possible on the system? This is an important question to ask as some alarms will send a signal to a call centre and an operator will call the person back on their telephone or mobile. The call back will only add to the agony of the person in need of help if they can’t walk to their telephone for various reasons.
  • Is the microphone on the pendant or on the unit? It is ideal to have the microphone on the pendant. However, current versions have shortcomings. They may not be water-resistant. This prevents the resident to use the device in one of the most hazardous places in the house – bathroom. Also having the microphone on the pendant can substantially shorten their battery life and make them heavier. So it is crucial to ensure the pendant is water-resistant, has a relatively long battery life and is as light as possible.    
  •  How far is the range of the pendant from the device? Most pendants have a typical range of 50 to 70 metres depending on the buildings. However, the range can be extended. Some devices work using 3G or mobile phone signals. Theoretically there is no limitation on their range as they perform on their own rather than a personal alarm unit. However, there are problems with them, for example, they may need to be charged regularly and there can be problems with signals in some areas.
  • Does the personal alarm unit have capacity for additional sensors as the need of a client changes with aging? For example, a smoke detector, a medication dispenser or a motion detection sensor. Some providers may provide a unit with the right capacity but do not provide additional sensors. It is advisable to find out how much they may approximately cost. 

2) Call centre: theoretically it doesn’t matter whether a call centre is based in the UK or abroad. However, there can be substantial differences in the way a call centre is run in the UK with one run in other parts of the world. It is absolutely crucial to ensure the call centre is designed to deal with elderly people and have great understanding of their problems. Relevant questions to ask are:

  • What are your protocols for falls management? What will you do if the operators couldn’t hear the resident? Will you stay on line until help arrives? What will you do if none of the key contacts are accessible?
  • Does the call centre pick up low battery warnings? If yes, how do you manage warnings?
  • What is the call centre’s response rate? This means how long will it take for an alarm to be answered by an operator. This is usually measured within 60 seconds, 90 seconds or 180 seconds depending on the number of alarms raised within a certain time. The response rate may change depending on the weather condition. Though it is important, how a call is handled when connected is more important. The operators should be extremely reassuring and welcoming to ensure clients use their pendants again when needs be.

3) Data: How the data is collected, checked, monitored, kept and used to arrange help is extremely important. Given the nature of this service they should be registered with Information Commissioner’s Office as a data controller, have privacy and data protection policies in place. If they are asking you to fill an online form that specific page that is used to collect data should be appropriately secured. The page should display a security certificate. One way to find out is to look for https:// in the address bar. 

To see the range of services that we provide please visit: our website 

Monday, 14 May 2012

8 important points about personal alarms for the elderly and disabled

1. Around 2,000,000 people in the UK use personal alarms. By the time you’ve finished reading these points many would have pressed their pendants asking for help. As a result some avoid sustained injuries, some will be reassured and some could literally save their life.   

2. With regret pendants are stigmatized and some who can benefit from them avoid using them. This is partly because of the way pendants are portrayed in popular TV shows, such as in Gavin & Stacy.  In fact, in real life when people get to that stage pendants will not be of much use to them.

3. Many of those who have a pendant may go for months without using it. This can give them a sense that they don’t need it. So they may not wear it or not even be aware of its whereabouts. Therefore, many are not able to use their pendants when they need it most.

4. The data that is passed to the call centre by clients or their families are vital in arranging help at the time of emergencies. Many people forget that they are the key contact for a friend, relative or a neighbour. Many may change their Key Safe’s PIN number without informing the call centre. The key holder may relocate to a different city or even a different country. So it’s important for the call centre to have up-to-date information about a client.

5. Pendants need to be tested regularly. First, this is how their batteries are charged. Second, many older people may lose capacity to even press their pendants. This helps them and their families make a decision about using automatic sensors or planning alternative contingencies. Or even considering other forms of care.

6. Most new personal alarm units are modular meaning other sensors can be added to the system as and when required, for example, motion detectors.

7. Mistakes can happen! Some providers program personal alarms remotely and sent them to their clients via post. If there is no rigorous quality checks in place people may receive an alarm that is destined for another person. The recipient of such an alarm can call for help. However, help will be sent to the person for whom the alarm was originally programmed! So it is vital to test the pendants when received through post and ask the operator specifically to check the data they’re holding for that personal alarm on their system.

8. In 2006 central government allocated £80 million to kick start the application of assistive technology in supporting older people remain independent at their own home. This was nationally referred to as Telecare. Reams of paper were consumed to write telecare strategies, teams were set up to implement those strategies and many service users wondered what telecare were. While some local authorities managed to set up innovative telecare projects many did not move beyond personal alarms. This is partly because personal alarms are the bread and butter of telecare! So if you or a family member is referred by a health care worker to a Telecare team don’t expect anything complex. It can simply be a personal alarm! Or a personal alarm with a few more devices that you probably know . These can be a smoke detector, a carbon monoxide detector or a mat that is known as bed occupancy sensor. They all function through personal alarm unit and link a resident to the call centre the same way a pendant does. However, they react to the environment automatically.
To see the range of services that we provide please visit: our website   

Friday, 13 April 2012

Why we prefer alarms answered by a call centre over ones managed by a carer?

Last week a family from Prestwood, Buckinghamshire approached us to check and replace an alarm purchased on internet due to creating numerous problems for the alarm wearer (a 92 year old person) and the carers. So our first post is about the alarms answered by carers compared to those managed by a 24/7 care line.
Most personal alarm units including the ones we provide allow calls to be answered by a carer or a relative. However, we do not advise our clients to go down that route. Here are some reasons why we are reluctant to do so:
  1. While the idea of linking someone directly to a carer seems like an excellent idea this can put further pressure on carers who are already under enormous pressure. Imagine you’re out shopping or driving and the alarm goes off. Even when the alarm does not go off the carer can be concerned constantly with making sure their telephone is on/has signals.
  2. The unit can be set up so that the call is answered by others if the first call handler is not available. However, other people programmed to answer calls may travel or turn off their phone for any reason without remembering they’re on call. This needs a great deal of planning and can be restricting.
  3. Ending the call after answering it can be frustrating for carers because it is different from ending a normal call and the unit may stay connected if not done properly.
  4. If there is an emergency situation an experienced operator from a 24/7 care line can arrange help more efficiently and quickly. Having access to the client’s medical and sensitive information such as key safe PIN they can arrange help in shortest time possible. They can also guide through emergency team members,  inform carers in a timely manner and keep in touch with the client until help arrives.
  5. It’s advisable to also consider other aspects of personal alarms such as adding other sensors. For example, extreme temperature sensor, bed occupancy sensor, or medication dispenser. Personal alarms that are only answered by carers can be restricting in this respect.
  6. Some of the alarms answered by carers work using pay-as-go SIM cards. This can lead to problems such as running out of credit, poor signals and eventually ongoing cost. Unlike claims that there is no ongoing cost associated with these types of alarms the pay-as-go SIM card costs and it may even end up costing more compared to, for example, £2.99 weekly cost of getting it answered by a care line.
To see the range of disabled and elderly personal alarms and telecare products that Care Harmony Solutions provides please click here.