Features we think matter most in medical alert systems
Medical alert systems can function in a variety of ways, including two-way communication. Here are some questions we recommend asking to aid in your search:
- Is there monitoring?
- If something happens, is there a dispatcher at the other end of the medical alert device or pendant to talk with the injured person and determine the best course of action?
- Will an ambulance come automatically?
- If the panic button is pressed, will an ambulance be sent automatically or will the provider first try to make contact via phone or another communication method?
- Is the system only for falls?
- What if there is a fire?
- Can a medical alert system help with other emergencies?
Independence and aging in place
The risk of injury is one of the major factors when seniors and their families decide it is no longer safe for seniors to stay at home, particularly when they live alone. Medical alert systems can help extend time at home for as long as possible.
- Is the system safe? For many seniors, one major danger in remaining at home is being alone. In the event of an emergency, the phone might be out of reach, or seniors may be nonresponsive. Can the medical alert system detect problems without someone pushing the button?
- What situations are dispatchers trained to handle?: The elderly can face a variety of health issues, and dispatchers need to be able to quickly get critical information from confused customers.
- How many falls does the system detect?: Medical alert systems can detect up to 95 percent of falls when used properly.
Something to consider is some medical alert system only work inside the home. With a system that can go anywhere, you will have access to help outside the home, although how much coverage each device varies. Here are some questions we think you should consider:
- Will it work outside the home? While accidents can occur in the home, you may want to consider safety during shopping trips or while out visiting friends and family.
- Is there an app? If the medical alert pendants or bracelets only work in the home, some companies have an app that offers the same services via a smartphone.
- What is the coverage range? If the medical alert device cannot travel, it is important to know how far one can take the wearable device or medical alert pendant from the home. For example, will the system cover the backyard, or would those areas be off limits when the senior is alone?
What are different types of medical alert systems?
MonitoredLike alarm systems designed to protect the home, a monitored medical alert system has a live person tracking activity on the other end. Monitoring helps ensure that there are minimal false alarms and 911 calls.
UnmonitoredUnmonitored systems have a series of numbers pre-programmed to call when the alarm is triggered. Instead of getting a guaranteed answer, the system calls through the list until it reaches the final number, which may be 911.
Monitored with fall alertThis is a monitored system that automatically detects a fall. If the wearer falls and the medical alert pendant doesn't manually trigger the alert, the system will still notify the monitoring company which will then try to contact the customer before notifying emergency services.
Unmonitored with fall alertThis type of medical alert system calls as soon as a fall is detected. The autodetection feature doesn't require triggering the medical alert pendant and can usually get help to a senior faster in the event of an emergency.
Who typically uses medical alert systems?
Here are several groups who may find a medical alert device useful; however, this list is not all-inclusive and is situation dependent.
Seniors living alone or who may be left alone at timesA senior may be used to living alone and values their independence but a fall or other simple accident could cause injury.
Persons who have recently retiredAlthough recent retirees may have good health, they may spend significant time alone at home. Time alone creates greater opportunity for unforeseen accidents where a medical alert device could be useful.
Persons with newly diagnosed or severe epilepsyPeople with epilepsy can respond very well to medication, but may not be seizure-free, creating a need for a medical alert device.
Persons with uncontrolled diabetesDiabetics can fall into comas or have seizures when their blood sugar goes too far outside the normal range. They may not be able to dial 911 to summon help so a medical alert device could be a useful tool in this situation.
Persons who suffer from Alzheimer's Disease (or other memory loss)A person with Alzheimer's disease may wander to an unknown location at least once in their life leaving them wondering how to get back home or to find help. Wearing the right type of portable medical alert pendant or bracelet could ensure help can come, no matter where they go.
CaregiversCaregivers of aging parents or loved ones who are ill may find great relief to know that if an accident occurs, they can call for help quickly using a medical alert device.