Buying a Personal Alarm? Monitored or non-monitored? The difference explained…
There are two basic types of alarms:
Non-monitored personal alarms are automated telephone systems (sometimes called autodiallers) which dial preset numbers, are not connected electronically to a monitoring centre and are pre-programmed to the telephone number of a person willing to help (e.g. family, friends, neighbour, aged care village manager). Automated telephone systems dial preset telephone numbers that are programmed into the system and, depending on the product, will have direct voice communication and/or deliver a pre-recorded message.
These systems rely upon the user having a network of people who they trust, that they can call for assistance. When the first call goes unanswered, the system continues to call the programmed numbers until the call is answered. In most systems, there is a feature called ‘acknowledging’. This requires the individual answering to press a particular button to let the system know that the call has been answered by a person, not an answering machine or voicemail.
Advantages of Non-Monitored Systems:
- Inexpensive – no ongoing monitoring fees
- One-off payment – the product is purchased and owned outright
- Calls go to friends, family and/or neighbours who are often very close by
- Senior people generally feel more comfortable activating the alarm when they know it will call friends or family. There is often a reluctance when the call will go to 000
- Flexible – the device can be easily programmed to any phone number e.g. if a family member goes on holiday. It can be switched to monitored service at a later date
- Simple to use with no installation costs
Disadvantages of Non-Monitored Systems:
- Reliant on one of the designated numbers answering
- Adds additional stage to the emergency call process
Monitored personal alarm systems generally consist of an attachment to a home phone which receives signals from a pendant or other device worn by the user. These signals are received at a monitoring centre and a pre-agreed response is put into action after calling the client to confirm that the alert has not been accidentally activated.
Centre staff will usually have some medical history of the client and access details if the residence is secured. This information can be passed onto the ambulance staff as required. In addition to the cost of the unit and an installation fee, a monthly monitoring fee is normally charged.
Advantages of Monitored Systems:
- 24/7 guaranteed response
- A solution for those with no friends and family (or not close by)
Disadvantages of Monitored Systems:
- Very expensive – ongoing monthly subscription fees
- Ongoing financial commitment – generally a 24 month minimum contract
- Requires third party installation and installation fee
- No ownership of product – unit is leased and must be returned when payments cease. Generally no ability to switch to non-monitored at a later stage (e.g. financial circumstances change)
- Seniors can often be reluctant to activate device when ‘monitored’ for fear of ‘bothering’ people. Less likely when system calls friends/family/neighbours