Does Evidence Support the Use of Personal Emergency Response Services?

Some reports suggest that the use of personal emergency response services (PERS) has been beneficial to older adults. In an emergency, the user activates an electronic device that he or she wears, which triggers communication with a central response center. The user receives a phone call from the response center to find out the nature of the emergency. If the user does not respond to the call, alternate responders are notified; however, if they fail to respond, local emergency centers will be contacted.

Supporters of the system argue the use of PERS has decreased hospital stays, increased feelings of safety, and encouraged a connection between older adults, family members, and local emergency response organizations. Yet very few studies have shown empirical evidence that would justify a monthly subscription to PERS. The authors reviewed five years of population-based research on PERS use, the impact of a PERS device on psychometric effects, and differences in health measures on the Short Form (36 item) Health Survey (SF-36) between users and non-users. They reported on two previous studies as well as a clinical trial.

The authors found that subscribing to PERS increased feelings of security by users, may have led to improved vitality and mental health scores on the SF-36, and was associated with an increase in visits to emergency departments. There were no significant improvements for measures of physical well-being or social functioning. The authors conclude that older adults who fear isolation, worry about falling, suffer from functional immobility, and are concerned about their safety would benefit from a subscription to PERS. Further research on PERS is needed as it may reveal the psychological benefits of feeling secure and safe for older adults.

Roush R. and Teasdale T. (2011). Personal Emergency Response Services: Do the Benefits Justify the Cost in Seniors Housing and Properties? Seniors Housing & Care Journal,19(1), 73-82.

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