Your guide to care and support

Telecare and alarms

A personal alarm can be very useful as it can help you safely remain in your own home.

Discuss alarms with your local authority social services department if you're having an assessment of your needs.

The local authority may view an alarm as equipment that's necessary to meet your assessed care needs and give you one free of charge after an assessment by an occupational therapist.

Alternatively, the local authority should make sure you're left with enough money to pay for an alarm after care and support charges have been deducted.

Different types of alarms

If you're going to buy an alarm yourself, there are lots of options to choose from.

Some alarms will alert a carer or neighbour.

Portable alarms

You wear or carry these alarms, which make a high-pitched sound when they're triggered. They're either battery-powered or use pressurised gas, and can be bought from high-street shops or online.

Fixed-position alarms

These have a fixed transmitter and receiver and are operated by a pull cord or similar trigger, which sends a high-pitched sound to alert someone nearby.

Some systems release door locks automatically to allow a neighbour to enter your home when the alarm's triggered.

Portable alarms with a fixed-position receiver

You wear these around your neck or wrist and trigger them yourself. An alarm is sounded from a receiver mounted on a wall or another fixed position to alert someone within earshot.

Portable transmitters and portable receivers

These are worn by carers and the people they're looking after, making it easier for the carer to know when the alarm's triggered.

If you're living with someone who looks after you, you may want systems that can alert them when you're in separate rooms, such as an intercom system.

Other alarms

Fall alarms

These are portable devices you wear. The alarm is activated when you fall over or lie on the ground without moving for 8 seconds. The signal goes to a portable pager or an autodial alarm telephone.

Movement monitors

These are mainly used at night and can alert a carer to epileptic seizures by detecting movement or monitoring vital signs. The alarm is triggered if the sensors notice something's wrong.

Wandering alarms

These are most often used to alert a carer when a person strays. The alarm is activated by pressure sensors in a bedside mat or doorway, or when someone gets out of bed.

Some alarms are worn and trigger a warning alarm if the person goes through a door fitted with an antenna.

Hypothermia alarm

Used to monitor room temperature. The alarm is triggered if the temperature falls below a certain level.

Telecare systems

Telecare systems can help you live independently by allowing someone else – typically a relative who lives elsewhere – to make sure you're safe.

A telecare system is usually made up of a network of sensors fitted all around your home. These sensors can be linked through a telephone line to a call centre.

Telecare is different from a personal alarm system as you don't need to do anything to trigger the alarm.

It's also different from telehealth systems, which can be used to remotely monitor your health signs, such as blood pressure.

The telecare system can also include prompts – for example, reminding you to take your medicine.

Some systems can turn off the electricity or gas mains in the home if they detect danger.

If you think you might benefit from a telecare system, contact your local authority's social services department.

Social services can provide telecare systems to people assessed as needing them and are financially eligible for these services.

Alternatively, your local NHS trust may pay for a telecare system as part of a continuing healthcare or intermediate care package, if you're eligible.

Find out more about NHS continuing healthcare.

If you can't get funding from the NHS or your local authority, you may have to pay for a telecare service yourself.

It's a good idea to see what telecare systems are available, and which are best suited to you and your home.

The Telecare Services Association can help you find the right telecare or telehealth services for yourself or your family, friends or people you care for.

Which? Elderly Care also has a useful guide to telecare and telehealth systems.

Media last reviewed: 10 Sep 2015

Media review due: 10 Sep 2018

Page last reviewed: 19/01/2018
Next review due: 19/01/2021