Which is the best personal alarm for the elderly? (updated for 2018)

A guide to choosing the right personal alarm for you in 2018

Choosing a personal pendant alarm for you or a loved one can be a confusing process. There are many different alarms and service providers available and the differences between them can be hard to identify. Despite performing the same basic function, different alarms and services are suitable for different people. It is worthwhile investing the time to find the alarm that is best for your individual needs. This brief guide will highlight the key features to look for in both the personal alarm and the service provider.

What features to look for in an elderly care alarm

Whilst many pendant alarms look very similar, there are some key features you should be aware of which can differ from model to model. Here are the main things you should consider:

Battery Life

Key amongst these is battery life. Your pendant alarm will be in near constant use, likely worn whenever you are in and around the house, it is important that you can rest assured that it is always operational. A long battery life means you do not have to worry about how much charge is remaining and whether you are covered. High quality alarms typically have a battery life in excess of 5 years.


Another important feature is range. Pendant alarms are linked to a base unit connected to a telephone line, usually centrally located in your home.  Different models of alarm will have varying operational ranges from that base unit. Whilst all should cover even a large home, some are able to cover a much wider area, meaning you can be protected whilst enjoying your garden or doing other tasks in the immediate environs of the house.

Ease of use

It is also important that the pendant itself is easy to use. Most elderly care alarms are operated by pressing a large button located in the centre of the front face of the pendant. You must be able to easily press this button; some alarms have attachments available to reduce the pressure required to fully depress the button. Accidental activation is a potential issue that good alarms attempt to prevent by recessing the button, so that pushing it against a surface or knocking it against a piece of furniture will not activate the alarm.


Modern personal alarms are usually waterproof. It is important to ensure yours is, as bathrooms are a high-risk area for falls and, as a consequence, are where having an alarm is particularly helpful.


The alarm you choose needs to be durable, it has to be able to survive a knock or two and still function. If the wearer has a fall there's always a chance the alarm unit could take some of the force so having a well made and substantial device is important.


It is important to remember to look at comfort considerations when choosing a personal alarm for the elderly.

For a pendant alarm to be truly effective it should be worn whenever in the home, with exception of whilst in bed. It is therefore important that you or your loved one are comfortable wearing it all the time. It should not impact on day to day tasks nor make the wearer feel uncomfortable with its presence. There are multiple factors to consider when identifying which alarm is likely to be the most comfortable to wear. Some of these are relatively simple such as judging the size and weight of the alarm. Most modern alarms are smaller and lighter than their predecessors.

Many alarms have more than one option for method of wearing. Typical options include neck pendant or wrist strap. With some alarms you will be able to change your method of wearing simply by changing attachments, whilst others will be less flexible. Different neck cords and wrist straps may also be composed of different materials, which may impact on personal comfort. 


It is also worth considering the alarms aesthetics. Some wearers may not be comfortable wearing a traditional red button style alarm. This could be due to simply disliking the look of them, or even feeling that they have connotations of frailty that make the wearer feel less able. For these reasons there are alternative styles available. Some models are designed to look like contemporary jewellery, appearing as attractive pendants or watch style alarms. These often eschew the red central button in favour of a discrete black button.

What to look for in an elderly care alarm service provider

Choosing the right service provider is as important as choosing the right alarm. The many different companies offering care alarms vary widely in the services they offer, ranging from relatively basic through to full service providers.

One of the key things to look for in a service provider is the help they offer in identifying the best alarm model for you. Some providers offer a ‘one size fits all’ product, which they simply post out to you and leave the rest up to you. More conscientious providers will visit the prospective wearer personally, take the time to assess their needs and then help the wearer make an informed decision. These providers also tend to offer a professional installation rather than expecting you or your family to struggle with wires and cables. The installer will be able to accurately identify the optimal location in the home for the alarm receiver unit and ensure that it is functioning properly. They will also be able to help with paperwork, making sure all relevant information, such as medical details, are recorded for use by the emergency response centre.

A high-quality 24/7 Emergency Response Centre is another key part of a good service. The best service providers will also offer a customer service telephone line to help with non-emergency questions and troubleshooting. They will also proactively stay in contact with you to ensure the best possible service. 

Clarity of pricing is another important factor when selecting a service provider. Make sure the advertised figure does include everything and that there are no hidden costs. Some providers have extra charges for each use of the button or for maintenance and battery replacements. Good providers should be able to give you a clear breakdown of pricing, and include maintenance etc as part of their service. It is also important to know what sort of price rises could occur in future, a good provider will have a clear policy on this. For example, Helpline have committed to never increasing their price by a higher percentage than the state pension increases for that year.

Helpline Personal Alarms for the Elderly

Helpline are an established nurse-led full-service provider with a wealth of experience in providing care alarms to the elderly and the vulnerable. Helpline are committed to offering an ongoing 5-star service, beginning with helping you select the best alarm for you or your loved one. To book an in-house demonstration and consultation with one of Helpline’s friendly regional team members, or just to ask for more information, give our customer service team a call on 03458 247 999. If you would like to read more about how Helpline help the elderly live independently in their own homes, check out our other articles on our Elderly Care & Safety Advice Blog

Peace of mind in four easy steps

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View our services that are suitable to you

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Arrange a suitable time with us to visit you at your home

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We will provide a simple to use and discreet system

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