The greatest health resource in your home may be your telephone. You can use it in emergencies, to keep track of family members, or to get useful medical information.
For many seniors and people with physical disabilities, having instant access to medical care is crucial. Emergency response systems fill that need.
One way to get instant medical help is to buy a phone with speed dialing and to set one of the buttons to dial a local emergency number. This will help only if you can get to the phone, which may not be possible in an emergency.
Emergency response systems are available in all areas. They provide the user with a small transmitter known as a ‘help button.’ Transmitters are often worn around the neck. Some may be worn on the wrist like a watch. In an emergency, the user pushes a button on the transmitter, letting the emergency response center know that assistance is needed. The center will usually call a neighbor or family member from a list of phone numbers you have provided.
The price of equipment and service varies considerably from company to company. Understand if the company you are dealing with sells or leases equipment. Monthly service fees range from about $15.00 to $45.00.
Several systems allow two-way communication. This means that in an emergency you can speak to the emergency response center and let them know what type of assistance is needed, provided you are near enough to your system‘s console.
Shop carefully before you buy an emergency response system. Some companies don‘t charge for the equipment; at most it should cost a few hundred dollars.
Before you choose a system, test several in your home. Make sure the transmitter works from several locations. It‘s also a good idea to ask for a money-back guarantee.
Ask your doctors or friends if they have had experience with emergency response systems, and if so, which ones they would recommend.
The American Association of Retired Persons offers a helpful booklet on emergency response systems. Write to AARP Fulfillment (EEO617), and ask for publication D12905.
Cell Phones are also useful ways to get help. While not as fast as dialing an emergency number, beepers offer a way to get assistance from a friend or family member if he or she is not near a phone.
When you call someone‘s phone number, you usually leave only your own phone number (by dialing it on a push-button phone). Then the other person calls you back. Some phones, however, do take voice messages and work as a standard answering machine.
Working parents can carry phones; children will feel more secure if they know their parents are always within reach.
Parents can also have their children carry phones so that they can easily get in touch. Parents should know, however, that many schools have banned cell phones, which can disrupt classrooms. Find out what the rules are at your child‘s school.
Check out this page for a full list of hotlines for health and safety.