Seniors Information Service
Home
Resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities
The Catalyst Collaborative
Unfinished Business
SIS Social Newsletter
Our Events
Residential Aged Care
Home Support and Care Options
Carers
Day Care & Day Therapy
Palliative Care
Personal alarms
Retirement Housing
Health & Wellbeing
Legal & Consumer
Money & Work
Leisure Travel & Lifestyle
Ethnic Communities
Issues & News
Links

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.

Information for print or download (pdf)

Fact sheet and list of personal alarm providers

Types of alarms

There are two basic types of alarms:

  • Non-monitored
  • Monitored

Non-monitored
There are 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 then 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.

Programming 000 into your autodialler:
Although it is possible to program 000 into an autodialler (along with other numbers), it is important to be aware that 000 calls from automated devices, such as autodiallers, cannot be guaranteed a response from the emergency services. This is due to the fact that the 000 system requires a person, not an automatic message, to make the 000 call, because the emergency services operator must be able to discuss and confirm the details of the emergency with the caller.

Calls to 000 are answered in a two-step process. It is particularly important during the second stage of the call that the caller’s details, including their address, can be clearly and accurately provided to the emergency service operator.

To ensure a call for emergency assistance is correctly and promptly attended, the emergency services must have verification that there is an actual emergency, the nature of the emergency, and the address of the emergency. Without a validated condition and verified address, a response cannot be guaranteed.

Because of the length of time that it takes for a call from an autodialler to reach the relevant emergency service organisation, part of any pre-recorded message may have already been played by the time it reaches the emergency services operator. This then makes it very difficult to determine the nature of the call, to identify the caller, and most importantly, to ascertain the caller’s address, which is essential for an emergency response.

Monitored
These 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.

Assistance with selection
The Independent Living Centre (ILC) can demonstrate a range of monitored and non-monitored systems to the public. Health professionals are available to provide assistance, and can discuss the most appropriate system to suit your needs, as well as provide detailed product information and supplier details. To discuss the systems or make an appointment time with the Independent Living Centre call 8266 5260 or 1300 885 886, email ilcsa@dcsi.sa.gov.au or visit 11 Blacks Rd, Gilles Plains or www.ilcaustralia.org.au.

Personal Alert Systems Rebate Scheme
The South Australian government Personal Alert Systems Rebate Scheme helps frail older South Australians at risk of falls or medical emergencies to obtain a personal alert 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 indigenous 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 meet 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, tel. 1300 700 169; www.sa.gov.au.

Discounts on alarms charges
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 providing 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.

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.

Personal alarm suppliers list
Even for those not eligible for the Personal Alert Rebate Scheme it is a good idea to select a model approved by the Independent Living Centre (ILC). There may be other providers (see the Yellow Pages under 'Alerting Systems &/or Services').

For more specific product and supplier information on personal alarm systems or to arrange a demonstration of the systems at the ILC, tel. 8266 5260 or 1300 885 886, www.ilcaustralia.org.au.

The National Broadband Network and personal alert systems
The introduction of the National Broadband Network (NBN) telephone services may have implications for people who use personal alert systems. These can work under the NBN but you will need to ensure that, when the NBN begins rolling out in your area, your telephone provider (new or existing) is aware you have an alert system and can support its continued operation. In some cases, new equipment or extra wiring may be required.

To assist you in this process it is recommended that you register your address immediately, either online, on the NBN Co Medical Alarm Register page (www.nbnco.com.au/campaigns/medical-alarm-register.html), or call 1800 227 300.

To register, you do not need to wait until the NBN is being rolled out in your area. More information about alert systems and the NBN is also available on the website www.sa.gov.au.

sisimage4.jpg

Seniors Information Service is supported by the Australian Government Department of Social Services. Visit the Department of Social Services website (www.dss.gov.au) for more information. Although funding for this service has been provided by the Australian Government, the material contained herein does not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Australian Government.