Call Chimes & Alerting System in the Home

By:  Amy Roman, MS, CCC-SLP


Call chimes are essential for keeping pALS and caregivers connected and providing peace of mind.  Typically they are most critical for those who can’t call out, walk or are in danger of falls.  A person should never be left without a way to signal to those in another room, in the same room and even ideally across town.

Caregivers report call chimes give them more freedom to move about the house, sleep more deeply, step outside for errands and have peace of mind.  Having them in place significantly reduces anxiety for both pALS and caregivers.  If you don’t have an effective call chime read on while we explore a few call chime options for around the house including options for people with severely limited movement.

Wireless Doorbell

A very simple and inexpensive solution for people who can still easily press a button and move an arm is a wireless doorbell.  These can be found at any hardware store.

Battery Operated Wireless Doorbell

Battery Operated Wireless Doorbell

Plug In Wireless Doorbell

Plug In Wireless Doorbell

The user simply presses a doorbell button (transmitter), placed within easy reach, and a doorbell rings in the house.  The little transmitter can be clipped (try a jumbo snack clip) to a bed sheet or Velcroed to a bedside table or the arm of a wheelchair.  Velcro that has adhesive on one side can be attached to surfaces throughout the house so the transmitter can be moved to accommodate different seating/sleeping locations.  Alternatively, it can be worn on a lanyard around the neck or attached to a wristband.

The receiver can either be carried by the caregiver or place it in a central location where it is sure to heard.  These are doorbells so the sound is loud enough to be heard in multiple rooms.  Look for a model with good transmitter range and an easy-to-push button.

One word of caution- Be sure to replace the battery in both the transmitter and receiver frequently and check it prior to each use.  The only thing worse than not having a call chime, is relying on one which is actually out of commission.


Switch Adapted Call Chimes   (for people who can’t press a button)     

An option for people who can’t use their hands well is an adapted call chime.  Many of these are doorbells modified so that they can be activated by very small movements of various parts of the body using a “switch”.

Switch Adapted Call Chimes (for people with limited movement) 
Call Chime Enabling Devices

RJ Cooper Vibrating Wireless Call Chime

Call Chime RJ

RJ Cooper Wireless Call Chime (pictured with Buddy Button Switch)

PA 1 Portable Alarm Medlabs AmyandPals

Medlabs Wired (extra secure) Call Chime (pictured with optional EZ Call Switch)

Adaptive switches are sensors which replace the need to press the doorbell button with a finger.   People who have a tiny bit of movement in any part of the body can usually activate some kind of switch.  Take a look at this short Switch Demonstration video for ideas on how call chimes can be activated by a very minute movement in various parts of the body.

Types of Switch Options

Switch Activated by Raising Eyebrows

Switch Activated By Raising Eyebrows

Options:  Piezo-Switch (formerly known as P-Switch),Impulse Switch, SCATIR Switch, EMG Switch
Switch Activated By Minute Body Movements

Switch Activated by Slight Finger Motion

Options:  MicroLight Switch. Spec Switch, Ultimate Switch, etc!
foot switch

Switches Activated By Foot Movement

Options:  Smart Nav Single Foot Switch, Ultimate Switch.EZ Call is good when in bed
Pillow switch at head

Switches Activated By Head

Options:   MicroLight Switch, Ultimate Switch, Spec Switch.Pillow Switch and EZ Call are good when in bed
Switch Mounting Arms

Switch Mounting Arms To Position Switch For Easier Access

Options:   Ultimate Switch, Universal mounting  arm.


Switches come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the action used to activate them.    You can take a look at pictures and descriptions some of My Favorite Switches.  You may already be using a switch to control your wheelchair, speech generating device or computer.  If you don’t have one, specialists who assists you with communication or wheelchair control may be able to help you find the right switch to enable you to activate a call chime.  It may also be helpful watch a video of a call chime set up for a person with very restricted movement. 

Funding Call Chimes

Surprisingly even though call chimes are essential for most pALS with speech and mobility issues, they are not funded through Medicare.  Your local ALS Association, Muscular Dystrophy Association or ALS Clinic may provide lending programs that offer these items.  Otherwise payment is out of pocket.   A simple wireless doorbell typically costs less than $30.00.  Switch adapted call chimes can be purchased at the websites mentioned above for about $70.00.  The switches used to activate adapted call chimes range from $40 up.

Alerting People Outside the Home

This is a topic I will cover more completely in other articles but a few of my favorite solutions include:

  • Text Messaging- Many cell phones can be switch adapted so that everyone can send a text message.
  • Monitored Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) – Some life alert systems offer switch adapted options and fall detection.

See the Amy & pALS Pinterest site for more ideas.