A Personal Emergency Response Alternative?
Thursday, February 22, 2018
After the sudden death of her husband on New Year’s Eve, a friend was really in a daze. She has a lifelong hearing loss and now has arthritis that can flare up in times of stress. She also had a stroke a few years ago and has fallen at home before.
Her family and friends thought some type of personal emergency response (PERS) device was needed. She and her husband had tried a service in the past and hated it. They had the service calling at all hours for false alarms, would forget to put the device on and did not think it was worth the money.
However, as someone with training in art and design, she loves Apple products and has an iPhone. We decided to try the Apple Watch from Verizon which will connect to service even if her phone is not nearby. Apple phones and the watch now have an SOS feature.
The SOS feature on the watch works in few different ways, depending on how you’ve set it up. Here’s information on how to make an SOS call:
- Press and hold the side button on your watch until the Emergency SOS slider appears.
- Continue to hold down the side button. Wait for a countdown to begin and an alert to sound.
- You can also choose to turn off auto call and instead drag the Emergency SOS slider to start the call.
- When the countdown ends, your watch automatically calls emergency services.
You can also add emergency contacts using the Health app on your iPhone. When you have emergency contacts identified, after an emergency call ends, the SOS feature alerts your emergency contacts with a text message, unless you choose to cancel. Your iPhone/Apple Watch sends them your current location, and, for a period of time after you enter SOS mode, it sends updates to your emergency contacts when your location changes.
She loves the watch and finds new feature on it every day! I’ve reminded her how to use the SOS feature a few times, but we haven’t actually called 911 yet. The other day, she was talking to a neighbor and she’d forgotten to charge her phone. The phone turned off due to low power in the middle of the call. The neighbor was worried and called back. She was able to answer the call using her watch and explain what happened. Otherwise she would have had the First-Responders at the door.
She’s also learned to ask Siri on the watch to call people. This could be a helpful first step if she needs some help but it’s not a life threatening situation. We’ve begun practicing with these feature by calling friends who are close by and willing to help.
- The best AT is the one the person will use.
- The watch is fun and attractive.
- If she doesn’t hear the phone ring, which happens at times due to the hearing loss, the Apple Watch vibrates on her wrist for notification and she can see who is calling. This is also an advantage as she may decide to just call back if the phone is not close by.
- The Apple Watch has multiple uses while a typical “panic button” or Personal Emergency Response is limited in function.
- No monthly fee though for the cellular version, Verizon has a monthly $10 line charge.
- Battery life. The watch needs to be charged just about every day.
- Many falls happen in the bathroom and, according to Apple: “Showering with Apple Watch Series 2 and Apple Watch Series 3 is ok, but we recommend not exposing Apple Watch to soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and perfumes as they can negatively affect water seals and acoustic membranes.”
- It’s difficult or impossible to practice using the SOS feature. If you can contact your local 911 you might be able to go all the way through the steps to practice, otherwise risk accidentally having first-responders show up at your door!
- Cost may not be covered by some services/insurance while the traditional PERS could be covered.
For my friend, the Apple Watch has been a source of joy in a dark time. It remains to be seen how useful it will be as PERS. Have you used a smart watch as Assistive Technology? Please share your experiences!
Here’s some more information on using the Apple Watch and SOS feature: