Every year, millions of adults age 65 and older fall. In fact, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans.
Falls are not an inevitable result of aging, but they can seriously threaten a senior’s safety and independence, especially if injuries are not treated promptly.
"Fear of falling can have a big impact on an individual's quality of life," says Charlene A. Foster, manager of the Personal Emergency Response System, which is administrated by the SVHC Auxiliary. "Fear can lead them to cut back on activities and social engagements. The isolation that follows can lead to depression, physical decline, and a sense of helplessness."
While you can take steps to 'fall-proof' a home — removing obstacles and tripping hazards like area rugs and cords, wearing supportive and properly fitted shoes, and using a cane or walker to steady your gait — you can't prevent falls entirely. But you can make sure help is always at hand with a personal emergency response system (PERS).
There are a number of different types of PERS devices but one common feature they all share is a lightweight transmitter that's worn or carried on the person. When an individual falls, a button on the transmitter can be pushed to send a signal for help. Some models can detect a fall without the push of a button and will automatically call for help.
The number, or, in some cases, numbers the system contacts are determined by the individual when the system is set up. It could be a neighbor, a family member, or, most often to the system's emergency response center.
Local residents (50 mile radius of the hospital in VT, MA, and NY) who are getting a system for the first time should contact the Personal Emergency Response System at SVMC (802-447-5089) which can offer assistance with obtaining and installing a device.
Foster notes, "We have wireless units, basic landline units, auto alert falls detection and Go Safe systems which operate no matter where you might travel in the country. Pricing depends upon the system you choose and are all offered on a month-to-month basis. The Go anywhere buttons are purchased and subscribers are charged a monthly monitoring fee. Basic units are charged an installation fee and a monthly monitoring fee. Fees range from $30.00 to $58.95, depending on the unit and service needed."
She adds, "Units obtained through the hospital are installed by trained PERS volunteers who also do range testing and educate the subscriber on how the system works. Our goal is to make sure the subscriber and their family members are completely comfortable with the system before we leave the household. Volunteers are also available to assist with troubleshooting should issues arise after the install."
The SVHC Auxiliary offers funding to help defray installation costs for those who may have trouble affording it. To learn more, call 802-447-5089.
Note: Because seniors are easy targets for scammers, it's important to make sure you're dealing with a reputable company and to read any contract carefully before signing to avoid unwanted charges and fees. The Federal Trade Commission has information on avoiding scams under the scam alert section at www.consumer.ftc.gov.