Several years ago I returned to my family home to assist my mother with managing her home and business. As her health situation has gradually declined, I took over the business, and then the role of primary caregiver for this remarkable 99-year old lady. Over time, I realized that I needed to provide a better way for her to summon me when help was needed.
Meeting the daily needs of an elderly parent brings with it a lot of responsibility, and finding workable solutions for what should be simple issues can be challenging. Although we are separated by less than a hundred feet at any point in the house, my mother’s ability to communicate an immediate need was a big problem. Her vocal calls for assistance could not be heard over the normal household noises, and the use of her ever-present mobile phone was no longer a viable tool as her ability to manage technology continued to diminish.
So what to do? I checked the Internet repeatedly and found all sorts of mobile phone app solutions and expensive monthly monitoring services. Nope. We didn’t need to reach anyone outside of the home. In the daytime, when I’m absent, we have in-home services for Mother. Someone is always with her. All we needed was the ability for her to reach me between two floors and at opposite ends of the house. That’s all.
After a lot of thought, I settled on using something that we already had experience with, remote doorbells. So, I purchased a transmitter and two receivers of a different make than that of our existing doorbell system, so as to minimize the possibility of interference. These devices send their signals over the power lines to each other.
I decided to use a regular hospital type nurse call button just like Mother would be familiar with as a previous hospital and rehab center patient. I found a source and ordered one with an 8-foot cable, terminated in a ¼” phone plug.
Scratching around my stash of discarded electronic components I found an 18-volt doorbell transformer to power the transmitter. Then I purchased an acrylic hobby case in which to mount the two. I installed a ¼” phone jack and a terminal strip, wired everything up and plugged it in.
Initial testing was frustrating as both receivers did not always work. I switched the devices around, got the same results, and then I realized what was going on. It depended on where I had them plugged in. All of the components – the transmitter, and the two remote receivers – had to be on the same phase. Residential electrical service comes to a home on two separate 110-volt power conductors, hence 220 volts. You must be on one side or the other for these devices to talk to each other.
It’s all working fine now and programmed for a different tune than the front doorbell. The call button extends from her bed to her recliner adjacent to it thanks to the long cord. Now I can sleep soundly at night, knowing that I can be summoned when needed, or work in the kitchen and not worry about missing any calls for assistance.
Total cost: less than $150 and by comparison, the cost for a professional monitoring service would be $400 and up annually – each and every year!
Additional photos here.
Remote doorbell transmitter and receiver Amazon 41.97
Remote doorbell, extra receiver Amazon 32.23
Phone jack – mono/2 conductors Amazon 9.99 (2-pack)
18-volt doorbell transformer Any electrical supplier or hardware store 10.00 to 15.00
Hobby box (not really necessary, but it keeps things nice and neat) Amazon 10.99
BTW: The above links are not “affiliate links”. I do not get any commission or the like if you buy something.