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Indigo teams up with Curtin on the use and usability of personal alarms

Aug 28, 2023, 13:13 PM by Matilda Gerrans


Personal alarms can be an incredibly important and useful tool, particularly for older people, or those who are at risk of a fall or medical emergency - but how do people use them, and how do they get prescribed?

Indigo partnered with Curtin University in 2020 to research the use of personal alarms, and at the ATSA Independent Living Expo in June, our Clinical Excellence Team Manager Linda Tran presented the findings of this research.  

Linda has been at Indigo for eleven years and manages the clinical aspects of our geat2GO service and Clinical Excellence team, who are involved in the selection and clinical review of geat2GO assistive technology products and providing an information service to assist assessors and prescribers when picking products.  

Our research study with Curtin looked into the relationship between personal alarms and the way that they are selected and prescribed, and it recognised that personal alarms were being provided quite frequently, and that wearers weren’t always using them.  

We found that people who had been prescribed personal alarms either had them, and weren’t using or wearing them, or had them and were wearing them, but when it came down to using them in an emergency situation, they still weren’t pressing the emergency SOS button.  

This finding, and the related goals and outcomes of the study, were the key focal points of Linda’s presentation.  

“The reasons why people weren’t wearing [personal alarms] is because either it didn’t meet their expectations, or some people just didn’t feel like they needed one, but because they were funded, they would use it,” Linda said, “Aesthetics was also huge – if it was too bulky or too heavy, clients wouldn’t want to wear it.” 

The study found that clients also weren’t wearing alarms as they may not have wanted to cause a fuss or bother their loved ones, or because they might have had an issue or problem with the alarm, and didn’t know who to call, or didn’t want to bother their allied health staff. 

The main solution to wearers not using the personal alarms, was to have a thorough assessment by an occupational therapist to determine whether the alarm is needed in the first place.  

The study took place during COVID, and it found that a majority of allied health interactions were via Telehealth, which has limitations that in-person assessments do not have. In-person assessments allow the occupational therapist to sit in the client’s environment, spend time with them in person, and see them more frequently, which can all give a more accurate picture of whether an alarm is needed.  

Another solution was to provide occupational therapists with advice on other strategies for falls prevention. “[Personal alarms] don’t actually prevent a fall from happening,” Linda said, “A more effective strategy is to look at how we can prevent this in the very first instance. Instead of giving them the alarm, we can ask, well why did the fall happen in the first place? Can you think of other preventative strategies before getting to the compensatory solution?” Rather than immediately prescribing a personal alarm, in her presentation, Linda suggested removing the contributing factors to falls in the first place, preventing the need for over-prescription.  

On the other end is where Linda’s work with the Clinical Excellence team and geat2GO comes in. As part of geat2GO, which provides clients with assistive technology across the country, we follow up on all personal alarms, and other assistive technology, to ensure that it is being used correctly.  

“As the people who have provided the alarm, we’ve embedded into our process that we follow up with clients who have had alarms prescribed,” Linda explained, “Even if their occupational therapist is involved, we still will have a follow up call to check that all is okay – and it helps to be a kind of safety net if the occupational therapist moves on or doesn’t have capacity.” 

Indigo provides a wraparound service to over 48,000 geat2GO clients, including a follow up call with the client and contacting their primary therapist or someone else in their support network as required their occupational therapist, to make sure that it is being used correctly and safely, and is meeting the client’s needs. Our Clinical Excellence team also manages an inquiry line, which helps both clients and prescribers find more information about the products that can help them.  

Our work with personal alarms is still ongoing, and our Clinical Excellence team continues to work on ensuring that a range of suitable assistive technology is available to the people who need it, and that each client has the right products for them, to help them live safely and independently.  

To learn more about our services, visit our assistive technology page