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Advice for Keyholders: Responding to a Personal Alarm Alert

Feb 21, 2020

As keyholder for a personal alarm user, you will receive a phone call from the contact centre if ever the alarm is intentionally pressed. The personal alarm user will be put through to a call operator as soon as the alarm is triggered, who will contact you and the emergency services, if needed.

What will I need to do?

If the call centre has already called the emergency services, then you will need to get to the property as soon as possible to unlock the door and let them in. If you have a key to the house then make sure you have it with you, or if you will need to access a key safe to get the key then be sure to have the code with you. The call operator will advise you of any other action to take if you get there before the emergency services; for example, if your loved one has had a fall then you will be told not to move them.

If the emergency services are not required, then you will need to attend the property as soon as possible to check on the alarm user. If you find that they do need medical attention when you arrive, then you can press the button on their alarm again and ask the contact centre for emergency help.

What will I need to bring?

The key to the property is the most important thing to bring. As keyholder, your job is to be able to access the house if ever the alarm holder needs you to. Some keyholders also make a note of contact numbers for next of kin, particularly if they are a neighbour, so that they can let family know if there’s a problem.

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Key symptoms to be aware of*

Personal alarms for the elderly are popular because of the increased risk of injury should they trip or fall. One of the most serious injuries is a hip fracture, which could be a concern if any of the following symptoms are displayed:

  • Inability to stand or put weight on the injured leg
  • Inability to lift, move or rotate the leg on the injured side
  • Swelling and bruising around the hip and the area surrounding the hip
  • The leg on the injured side may appear shorter
  • The injured leg may appear to be turning outwards – more so than the uninjured side

A stroke is another condition that many elder people worry might happen when they’re home alone. To recognise the symptoms, make sure you’re familiar with the rule of ‘F.A.S.T.’:

  • F is for face. Has their face has fallen on one side? A good way to assess this is to ask if they can smile.
  • A is for arms. Can they raise both arms and keep them in that position?
  • S is for speech. Is their speech slurred or inaudible?
  • T is for time. The quicker you get help, the better the person’s chances of recovery are.

A heart attack can be tricky to spot as it does not always manifest itself in severe chest pain. The symptoms you should look out for are:

  • Chest pain: The chest may feel as though it is being squeezed or pressed by a heavy object. The pain might not stay localised to the chest, it can also radiate to the jaw, neck, arms and back. It is usually the left arm that is most affected, but pain can be experienced in both arms.
  • Shortness of breath: If a person appears to be struggling to catch their breath it may be an indication that a heart attack is taking place.
  • Feeling weak or light headed: An overall feeling of weakness can be a signal that the heart is under duress.
  • Coughing and wheezing: As well as struggling to breathe, someone suffering a heart attack may wheeze, cough and splutter.
  • Feeling sick: A feeling of nausea or actual vomiting is not uncommon in the event of a heart attack.

How can I help?

Once a medical emergency has been ruled out, you can help the alarm holder by trying to relieve the problem that caused them to press the alarm in the first place. In many situations, this might just mean comforting the alarm holder with a drink and a chat to make sure they’re feeling better, or calling a relative to come and check on them. Thoughtful tasks such as booking a doctor’s appointment for them, picking up painkillers or promising to check in on them the next day could provide a big help and put their mind at rest.

When to call 111

If your loved one is not in a life-threatening condition, but still needs urgent care, then the NHS non-emergency number 111 may be able to provide advice. They will be able to provide you with support in taking the right steps, whether that’s visiting a walk-in centre, making an appointment with a GP, or self-managing the problem at home. If you are unsure of the best action to take, or will be unable to see a GP for some time and are concerned, then it may be best to request guidance from 111.

If you’re called to an incident by a personal alarm holder, the key is to try not to panic. Just remember; the faster and more calmly you act, the more chance you will have of helping their recovery.

*All medical advice informed by the NHS website (accessed March 2018). Please check with a medical professional for the most current advice.

Age UK Personal Alarms

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