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Personal alert systems 'téléassistance' boom in France

Personal alert systems for older people – téléassistance – are a growing area and there are several schemes that can help to pay for them

Téléassistance services are a key part of helping people stay in their own homes for longer and typically consist of bracelets or medallions with a button that can be pressed in case of a medical emergency or fall. Some incorporate an automatic fall detector.

Once activated, they connect to a call centre, where staff will make contact through the device – or a speaker and microphone system installed in the room – to check if help is needed. Staff will, if necessary, call for help from a list of friends and family, or the emergency services.

The Connexion contacted several operators but could not find one that runs a full English-speaking service.

One firm said some of its operators speak English, but there is no guarantee one will be on duty at the time of a call.

Téléalarme Assistance Bretagne Sécurité (TABS) in Brittany said it has English speaking customers and issues its call-centre staff with a list of key phrases in English to help deal with them.

Staff at the alert centres should have access to each client’s file, with key information about them, including a list of close relatives or neighbours to call in an emergency, especially those who could call in to physically check on them.

If the person is unable to respond to questions, then the emergency services will be called out immediately as it is assumed they are unconscious or unable to speak.

Téléassistance services are generally run by private firms and associations but some mairies and departmental councils also have them.

Some operate nationally, others in a restricted area.

A good way to find an operator is to check the annuaire (directory) of Points d’Information at the government’s official help website for older people.

Choose Annuaire des points d’information and put in your postcode and a radius.

This will give you a list of local help bodies which should be able to recommend suitable services in your area.

The price of téléassistance is variable but is on average around €20/month.

La Poste has a basic téléassistance offer nationwide at €19.90/month, with a bracelet or medallion system plus a speaker, delivered and installed by your postman or woman.

You can pay extra for the post workers to do regular call-ins on their rounds.

Points to check with such offers include whether there is an initial installation charge on top of the monthly fee, and whether the equipment is sold to you or on loan.

For example, Nexecur, owned by Crédit Agricole, has an offer with an installation cost of €49.90, then €24.90/month or an optional extra €2.50/month for an additional button unit.

It also has a mobile service for use out of the home with costs including €99 for a special telephone or €34.90 for a smartwatch, plus a subscription of €29.90/month.

Nexecur offers extras such as €3/month for a fall detector, €3/month for a smoke detector connected to the system, and €1/month for access to a “conviviality” platform where you can chat with a listener if you need to talk to someone when there is no emergency.

Some firms, such as Filien, also offer more high-tech options such as heat or movement sensors around the home to check remotely if the person is going about their usual routine. Filien’s service is €49.50/month, including the basic assistance service.

Points to check include how the service makes sure the equipment is working well and batteries are charged.

Financial help

Many services are eligible for an income tax credit for Service à la personne – an important question to ask.

To claim this, you fill out the sums you have paid in a given year on your annual French tax return, box 7DB.

You can get 50% of the cost as money off income tax and/ or a bank transfer from the tax service within a cost ceiling of total eligible services of €12,000/year, or €13,500 for over-65s, or €20,000 if you have a disabled person’s card.

In other words, if you spend €240/year on a basic service, it will only cost you €120.

If you receive the APA benefit for those with dependency needs, speak to your departmental council, as help for the téléassistance service can be factored into this.

However, if you obtain money towards the service from APA or other aids, the amount of these should be deducted from the sum you claim a tax credit for. Some mairies and departmental councils also offer help towards this. Your mairie or Information Point should be able to advise.

Some only pay towards the service at certain risky times of the year, or for those receiving specific benefits.

Some health mutuelles and pension funds also help.

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