Mainstream medical alert systems have come a long way over the years. Not so much in new features, but in performance and reliability. Things like pendant button range and battery life have evolved as the wireless and battery technologies have been able to give us smaller buttons with more range, using less power.
When I mentioned “mainstream,” I am referring to the products you are most familiar with from companies like LifeStation, ADT Companion Service or ADT Medical Alert, and Walgreen’s Ready Response. These are the product’s features that we will be discussing here. There are more specialized systems that focus on a system type that is referred to as “telemedicine.” These products can also monitor health status using ECG, glucometer, blood pressure, and weight scale devices. Comparatively, these systems are much more expensive and still relatively new technology. We are going to focus on the most common features required by most people.
The two-way voice feature of most medical alert system’s are still the most powerful. They allow your loved one to speak hands free to trained central dispatchers that can gather information for the emergency medical service and keep your loved one calm during the process. This is a staple and a requirement.
Waterproof Wireless Button and Console Button
I can’t think of a system today that does not use wireless technology with their system. Some though only have buttons that are “water-resistant” and not “waterproof.” Be sure yours is “waterproof” as your loved one will need it in the shower or tub. We certainly don’t want them worrying about getting it wet. Those are very likely places for a fall.
It’s also nice to have a button right on the console itself. Not only is it convenient at night (if your system is installed right by the bed), but it’s also a great back-up if there’s a problem with your wireless button or pendant. It won’t be uncommon for your loved one to temporarily misplace their pendant from time-to-time. You’ll both be happy to know that you still have the console button until theirs is found or replaced.
Some companies also refer to it as inactivity monitoring, while LifeStation calls it Activity Assurance. First, its purpose is to be sure that your loved one is moving around each day by checking on them every 12 hours or so. If they are not, you’re going to want to know about it and have them checked on. There are a couple of different ways that activity monitoring is done. One is by requiring your loved one to simply press a button after a reminder is given by the medical monitoring console (for an example see our video here). Another is by using door contacts and motion detectors to sense your loved one’s movements throughout the day. This way, the check-in is more automatic. Obviously, these systems are more expensive.
Medication or Pill Reminder
Not all systems have this feature and some are more basic than others. In its most common and affordable form, the system can be programmed to alert your loved one that it’s time to take their medicine at predetermined times. Unfortunately, it’s still up to your loved one to know what to take and how much to take. There are automatic pill dispensers on the market that you may want to incorporate into your setup, but the more complicated you make things, the less they are used and the more they are prone to failure.
The most important thing is to keep it simple. Don’t get more than you need. Start with a solid-reliable system and provider and go from there. You can always add features or change providers, if needed, but be sure you didn’t sign any long-terms contacts!