Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) Deficits
Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) are devices that let the user call for help in an emergency by pressing the device's button. PERS are widely used in western countries to support the health and safety of elderly or at-risk individuals, and to help them maintain independent living situations.
Exhaustive research has turned up a wealth of information regarding the "best" PERS while offering little detail on specific failings of the devices, and few mathematical statistics on system deficits. Most issues related to PERS have more to do with the attitude and feelings of the users rather than with the actual functionality of the devices: the most consistent issue appears to be the end user forgetting or neglecting to use their PERS, which could be due to a number of reasons. Other issues are the cost of the service and the availability of desired features like GPS, smart-phone compatibility, waterproof devices, and fall-detection functions.
1. One issue is when the end user neglects to actually use their PERS. This is a significant problem, as elderly people may experience emergencies that may prevent them from using their device, even though the devices are meant to be used during those exact emergencies. Their emergency might make them confused and forgetful, unable to press the button, and/or unable to let emergency helpers into their home, therefore rendering their PERS devices useless.
2. Some users experienced fear and anxiety over whether their device would function properly when needed; limited and confusing alarm ranges also led to user fear/worry.
3. Up to 25% of end users neglect to wear the pendant and so eliminate's the device's ability to assist in emergencies. Reasons for not wearing the PERS include simply forgetting to put it on, worrying about damaging it, and discomfort.
4. Some users will not activate the device even in an emergency for a number of reasons. They may not believe the emergency is "serious enough" or will wait to see if it gets better on its own. Some worry about the qualifications of the emergency helpers, the presence of strangers in their home, and the possibility of being hospitalized.
5. The cost and service fee of a PERS is too expensive for some potential users. Some systems require long contracts and have monthly service fees which are important considerations for seniors who may be on fixed incomes and in unpredictable living situations.
6. Occasionally the user is not always well-understood or managed by the call center. Users express dissatisfaction with slow or impolite care providers.
7. Users felt anxiety over the possibility of setting off false alarms. In fact, false alarms are a major factor inhibiting growth in the current PERS industry.
8. Many devices require connection to a landline or Wi-Fi, increasing the price and complexity for many users. Some newer systems now use cellular towers but these PERS generally cost more up front. Cellular systems are also obviously dependent on cell reception and have shorter battery life.
9. The ranges of PERS may be unreliable due to obstacles in a home (walls, furniture, appliances, etc) that can interfere with the connection of the pendant to its base unit.
10. The average battery life of PERS devices is around 30 hours. Users must remember to charge their device's battery and must be mindful of natural disasters and power outages; a dead PERS is not useful to its user.
As products are constantly being developed and bettered, some of today's PERS devices may have a few of these listed features. However, these often missing features are highly desired by users and we should see their increased implementation as technological advances continue.
1. Longer range. The listed ranges of different PERS vary greatly, from 300 feet for ADT to 1300 feet for Medical Guardian. However, the actual indoor range can be less than this due to indoor obstacles. Consumers desire longer, reliable ranges.
2. Smaller devices. Some users felt the devices are too noticeable and are "stigmatized."
3. Waterproof devices. Many falls happen in the shower or bath so making PERS available during these times is critical.
4. GPS functionality. This allows users to connect to their emergency services when they are on-the-go, helping them maintain active, full lifestyles.
5. Automatic fall-sensing devices. Some devices currently have this feature but studies have found the service to be "wildly inconsistent."
6. Smart-phone applications. These will be used concurrently with GPS functions to allow users to be found whenever and wherever they need help.
Personal Emergency Response Systems provide end-users with a way to maintain independent living safely. They have been in use since the 1970s and while are widely used in western countries today, still face a number of issues that decrease their effectiveness. Users neglect or forget to use their PERS, opt out due to high cost, and face anxiety over real or perceived unreliability. PERS devices are taking advantage of advances in technology but desired features remain missing from many systems, including waterproofing, GPS functionality, and automatic fall-sensors.