Every day, we get a little older. When the time comes that we’re in our elder years, there’s a good chance we’ll need more help from our family, friends or health care providers. Age-related disease and muscle mass loss can make even the simplest of tasks seem arduous.
A home medical alert system allows for independence and is a smart choice for those who are less mobile or more likely to slip and get injured from a fall.
When you start researching these systems there is a ton of information to take in. It can quickly become confusing and overwhelming. What’s the best model? What features do you personally need? Which one is the most reliable?
These are all valid questions.
The first and most important thing is to consider is the condition of the person that will be using the medical alert system.
Evaluate the Person Using the System
A person may use a medical alert system with different abilities. Take the following examples and use them to fully understand how to choose a medical alert system:
- If a person has full function and mobility but had dementia, will they know how to use the device when they need it?
- Will the person be able to communicate with the call center if needed?
- A person with limited mobility that falls may not be able to reach a mobility aid or phone, so a system that can detect falls may be the optimal choice.
You may even be able to ask for a free trial of a system you’re interested in. Many companies are willing to let you take their systems for a test drive.
Options to Consider When Choosing a Medical Alert System
Medical alert systems are complex, and there are options for everyone. Once you’ve properly evaluated the person that will use the device, you’ll want to consider a lot of different system types:
- Wearable devices will allow a person to call for help. These systems connect to local fire departments and police stations.
- Monitoring devices will continually monitor a person’s vitals and medication to remind them when to take medicine and alert them if something is wrong.
- Fall detection devices can alert someone when a person falls (1-in-3 people over 65 fall annually).
- GPS systems are great for a person that may be suffering from memory-related problems and has the potential to get lost.
- Activity monitors are a great option that will alert a person that it’s time to get moving.
- Check-in services are an option, where a live person will check in on a person to make sure that they’re okay. These services are often done electronically.
Once you decide what system type you want to use, you can move on to the equipment and consider the following:
- Wearable. A wearable device needs to be safe, free of sharp edges and not interfere with a person’s normal activity.
- Resistance. A medical alert system or device ought to be waterproof so that it can be worn in the rain or shower. Scratch resistance is nice for wearables.
- Range. The range of the unit needs to be at least enough to cover the entire home and property where the person lives.
You’ll also find some pieces of equipment that can connect with family member’s devices, such as a smartphone, where the family member can check in on their loved one. The setup process is another consideration as well as quality and battery life.
Monitoring and response options are also a major consideration.
The monitoring that’s offered is the second most important aspect, aside from ensuring the person can request help, of an alert system. This means that when an incident occurs, the response and monitoring will be impeccable and get the person the help that they need.
A few considerations in this respect are:
- Customer service. You need to have a company that is willing to back their product. Customer service is very important during the setup process as well as troubleshooting any issues that may occur in the future.
- Routing. The alert needs to be routed to someone, and there are medical alerts that allow for a lot of custom options. An alert may be routed to friends, family, police stations and so on. Some devices also allow for urgent calls to be directed to your local authorities and non-urgent alerts sent to friends and family.
- Response center. The response center needs to be very responsive. What this means is that the response center should respond to an alert within seconds (minutes is too long). Response centers can be certified, offer different languages, and sometimes, the manufacturer of the device will run their own response center. Research your options and response center to find a good fit for you.
Availability is the final concern, and it’s often a concern that people overlook. Some medical alert systems will use national companies, but if you’re from a small city, these companies may not offer services in your area.
Find a company that offers service in your area.
A few good resources that can help you find a national company in your area are:
- Local agency. Local senior centers or similar will often have a long list of companies that service the local area. Eldercare.gov will help you find an agency on aging that will be able to direct you to companies servicing your area.
- Local senior centers. You can make use of the local senior center, ask others what alert systems they’re using and also request an alert system if you or a loved one is living at the senior center.
There are also many security system companies that offer medical alert systems. You may be able to cut back on costs by bundling home security and your medical alert system into one. These options are often offered by national companies and ensure that you’re connected to medical alert systems promptly.
Do your research, set a budget and don’t be afraid to call companies offering medical alert devices to ask for a trial.
Safety is paramount for a person that ages or has disabilities. When a person slips and falls, it can mean severe injuries, emotional distress and even death in some cases. Choosing the right medical alert system can save lives and reduce distress in the process.
Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.