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Personal alarms

Personal alarms are devices which can be used to alert a contact (such as a neighbour, relative, friend or a monitoring service) that there is an emergency situation.

Types of alarms

There are two basic types of alarms:

  • Non-monitored
  • Monitored

Non-monitored personal alarms are of two sub-groups. They can be whistles, battery-operated alarms which emit a high-pitched shriek when activated, flashing lights, etc. These usually have a limited range and rely upon someone who is willing to help being within hearing range.

Automated telephone systems (sometimes called autodiallers) which dial preset numbers, are not connected electronically to a monitoring centre and thus rely on a person willing to help being contactable on the preset number. Automated telephone systems dial preset telephone numbers that are programmed into the system and deliver a pre-recorded message. It is important to ensure that the message is clear and audible and that any information contained is up-to–date.

These systems rely upon the user having a network of people who they trust, that they can call for assistance. The system continues to call the programmed numbers until the call is answered. In most systems, there is a feature called ‘acknowledging’. This requires the person answering to press a particular button to let the system know that the call has been answered by a person, not an answering machine or voicemail.

Using 000 as one of the numbers to be dialled is NOT recommended. Autodiallers have a recorded automatic message. Staff on the 000 service need to be able to speak to an individual to know where to send help and the nature of emergency to which they are responding.

Monitored alarm systems generally consist of an attachment to a home phone which receives signals from a pendant or other device worn by the user. These signals are received at a monitoring centre and a pre-agreed response is put into action after calling the client to confirm that the alert has not been accidentally activated.

Centre staff will usually have some medical history of the client and access details if the residence is secured. This information can be passed onto the ambulance staff as required. In addition to the cost of the unit and possibly an installation fee, a monthly monitoring fee is normally charged.
 
Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) Gold and White Card holders - All DVA Gold Card holders, and those White Card holders with specific conditions which make the use of a personal alarm necessary, are eligible to receive a free personal alarm.

DVA will pay for an assessment from an Occupational Therapist and, if approved, the equipment will be provided and the Department will pay all ongoing monitoring fees. If the applicant does not have a telephone or if the existing telephone is not suitable for a personal alarm installation (e.g. wall-mounted), the applicant will need to install a suitable telephone at their own expense. Similarly, if the applicant wishes to have a security key box fitted, that will be at their own cost. For further details contact Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA),  Tel. 13 32 54 www.dva.gov.au

Discounts on alarms charges

In addition to DVA Gold and White Card holders as outlined above, people receiving home support services to keep them in their own homes may be eligible for reduced fees. A number of alarm suppliers have agreed to provide discounts to clients of home support agencies. These discounts may cover purchase/rental/installation and monitoring fees. Individuals currently receiving support services should contact the agency/ies proving these services to check if they are eligible.

Some retirement villages may have arrangements in place for the provision of alarm services with a pre-arranged special rate (residents should check with their retirement village).
 
A small number of councils also provide financial assistance in relation to supply and/or installation of systems and/or security key boxes. Contact your local council for details.

Assistance with selection

The Independent Living Centre (ILC) can demonstrate a range of both monitored and non-monitored systems and provide further information. Qualified staff can discuss with you the most appropriate system for your situation. The agency's website has additional information on personal alarm devices and emergency call systems. To make an appointment contact The Independent Living Centre (ILC), Tel. 8266 5260 or 1300 885 886 www.ilcaustralia.org

Personal Alert Systems Rebates Scheme

In April 2011 the South Australian government introduced the Personal Alert Systems Rebate Scheme. The Scheme helps frail older South Australians at risk of falls or medical emergencies to obtain a personalalert system, allowing them to live independently in their own homes for longer.

There are specific age-related, clinical, social and functional criteria that applicants have to meet to be eligible for the rebate. The rebate is currently only available to people who meet all the criteria and are 75 or older (65 years for Aboriginal people). In January 2012 the age may be lowered to 75 (55 for Aboriginal people).
 
The rebate is only available for certain alarm systems. Before submitting an application contact the ILC for specific information about which alarm systems meet the eligibility criteria. They can also help determine which of those systems will best suit an individual’s specific situation.

To speak to someone regarding your eligibility for the Personal Alert Systems Rebate Scheme and to obtain the necessary application forms contact Department for Communities and Social Inclusion (formerly Department for Families and Communities) on 1300 700 169, www.sa.gov.au/Seniors

A list of personal alarm suppliers is available in this fact sheet. It is a guide only.  Costs and types vary considerably and there may be other providers (see the Yellow Pages under 'Alerting Systems &/or Services'). The inclusion of a service provider does not imply that their system meets the requirements of the DVA, the Personal Alarm Rebate Scheme or that it will suit an individual’s personal circumstances.
 
For information about providers of monitored and non-monitored alarm systems, download or print the fact sheet using the link above.
Please note that the organisations listed are not endorsed or recommended in any way by Seniors Information Service (SIS).

Detailed independent, technical information about specific alarm systems is available from the ILC. If you visit the ILC you can have a 'hands on' trial of the systems they have on display. Appointments preferred. Tel. 8266 5260 or 1300 885 886

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Seniors Information Service is supported by funding from the Australian Government under the Commonwealth HACC Program.