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“Help me! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” | Keystone Elder Law – Mechanicsburg, PA

Do you remember the TV commercial with the woman on the floor calling for help? Unfortunately, it has been an all too real experience for many older individuals. While falls can happen at any time and any place, the good news is that emergency telephone alert systems (also called personal response systems) make it easy for you to let someone know you need help. This is especially important when an older person lives alone. Most systems have two pieces: an emergency transmitter and a receiver which is plugged into the phone line. When you need help you simply push the button on the transmitter, which you wear as a pendent around your neck or strapped on your wrist like a watch. The transmitter sends a signal to the receiver which the calls a 24/7 response center. The receivers for many systems are actually phones which have a built-in speaker phone, so the response center can talk with you if you are within earshot of the unit. Some systems call 911, while other systems call someone you designate (who should either have a key or know where you keep a key hidden so they have access to your home), and some do both- depending on the severity of the medical condition you report. I have seen some systems advertised on TV that include fire and burglary protection in addition to the personal response service. If you browse through an AARP Magazine you will see promotions from several companies that provide these systems. Before you get a system, be sure to find out all the costs that are involved. With some systems you purchase the equipment and pay a monthly service fee. With other systems you just pay a monthly service fee and you have no long-term commitment. Some systems have a charge to install the equipment. A good habit to get into with using one of these systems is to have a hook for your keys and to exchange the transmitter for your keys when you leave your home. When you return, put the transmitter back on when you hang up your keys. I know some people will say, “I don‘t care what happens to me; I just want to be on my own.” My answer to that is that these systems do not intrude on your independence, and they can minimize the amount of pain you experience if you get injured in a fall and cannot let anyone know you need help. They also give peace of mind to family and friends who care about you. So. . . think about it again before someone finally hears you saying, “Help me! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

John Reese
Elder Care Coordinator