How to Choose a Medical Alert System

Medical Alert Checklist

 

Medical alert systems save lives. This is especially the case for those who are at risk of falling, those who have dementia, and for the elderly who live alone. Choosing the right type of medical alert system will give you the peace of mind that help is only a click away.

There are many systems to choose from that offer a variety of fees, service options and features therefore it can be challenging to quickly make a choice.

 

The drawbacks of using everyday technology as a medical alert system

You may be asking yourself “why do I need a medical alert system if I have a cell phone?” You could always use your cell phone in that capacity, but there are drawbacks to consider. Medical alert systems are effective because the user physically wears a device they can easily press to summon medical aid.

The drawback of a cell phone is that the user does not typically wear it which could be detrimental if you experience a medical emergency while you’re away from your phone.

Also, it’s far too easy to leave your phone lying around when you’re in the comfort of your home. Essentially, if you don’t have a medical device that isn’t attached to your body at all times, you’re always at risk.

 

Questions To Ask About Medical Alerts

 

Questions you need to ask when you’re shopping for your medical alert system

Though it can be difficult to pin down a specific brand or feature that makes a particular medical alert system stand out  from the rest, there are three questions you can ask yourself to make the process that much more straightforward:

1) Should your system be monitored?

When a system is monitored, an emergency dispatch center is contacted if you press the wearable button . If your system is not monitored, you will instead contact a family member or a friend who has been added to a list of emergency contacts. If none of your emergency contacts answer the call, the system will then contact emergency services.

It all comes down to price. If you’re using a monitored system, you have to pay for the device itself in addition to a monthly fee. You may also have to pay an activation fee and sign a contract. On the other hand, non-monitored systems are generally free to use after the initial cost of the device itself. Thus, finances will typically be the determining factor when deciding whether or not to go with a monitored system.

2) Should your system have fall-detection?

For an additional monthly fee, some companies offer a fall-detection feature that automatically contacts emergency services if an individual experiences a fall. This sounds great in theory, especially for those who have a higher risk of falling, but most systems have a few bugs that have yet to be worked out.

For instance, your system may contact emergency services if you happen to lose your balance momentarily but still manage to stay on your feet. It may also contact emergency services if you drop the device. Therefore, if you decide to use the fall-detection feature, you’ll have to be extra careful.

Companies tend to charge around $15 or less a month for adding fall-detection, so it’s certainly an affordable option for those who feel the need to add it on. Fall-detection is still a fantastic feature, but it pays to be aware of the potential issues you may experience.

3) Should your system be mobile or home based?

Before the advent of widespread mobile technology, medical alert systems were widely used within the home, synched to a landline phone that would contact emergency services once the button was pressed. You would have to set up a home-based unit that would automatically connect you with the appropriate services.

Though technology has greatly evolved, companies still offer the same traditional service of home-based medical alert systems though they’re now capable of working with both landline connections and cellular networks.

With today’s mobile-dominated world, many companies offer more portable solutions that keep you covered both at home and while you’re out running errands. This is great for active senior citizens who enjoy taking walks or who volunteer their services outside of their home.

 

Ascertaining specific needs

When you’re choosing a medical alert system, you should first ascertain the needs of the person who will be using the system. You should evaluate both their current and future needs. Let’s say you have an elderly parent who has a bad knee. It’s reasonable to assume that if they were to experience a fall at some point it would be very difficult for them to get back up on their own. Thus, investing in a fall-detection system may be the best course of action.

Perhaps your loved one has dementia. In that instance, you would have to ask yourself whether or not they would have the capacity to operate the system later on down the line as the condition worsens.

Be mindful you can always ask for a free trial period. If the company accommodates you, you’ll be able to virtually test drive the system to see if you like it.

 

Further considerations to think about when choosing the right system

 

1) What type of equipment would work best for your situation?

Is it waterproof?

Can the device be worn in the shower? Can it be fully submerged in the bathtub? Falls tend to happen in the kitchen or bathroom, so having a waterproof system can save lives.

Can it be worn?

Can the device be worn on the body (such as around the wrist)? Is it obtrusive? Does it look aesthetically pleasing?

What is the range?

For home-based systems, how far can you walk before you’re out of range? Can it reach the garage? Can it reach the edge of the backyard?

Can you check the system from an external device?

Can family members check in on the medical alert system with a smartphone, computer or tablet?

Is the system portable?

If you decided to up and move, can the system be moved with you?

How durable is the system?

If you were to drop the system, would it shatter into a million pieces? Is it durable?

Is the system complicated to operate?

How much expertise do you need to operate the system? Can anyone do it, or would you have to call out a specialist?

Does it display battery life?

Will you be able to track the battery life? Will it warn you if the battery is dying?

Will the device have to go through updates?

Will the system undergo technology updates? Do you have to implement the updates yourself or does the system update on its own?

2) What the system needs to do

Call for assistance

If you push the button for help, does the device connect you with emergency services? How about friends and family?

Fall detection

One of the greatest dangers for an older adult living alone is falling. Investing in a fall detection system may be for the best despite its flaws.

Medical monitoring

Checks health vitals and sends reminders for taking medication.

GPS tracking

An excellent feature to have if a loved one is independent and ventures outside of the house often.

Daily check-in services

A person who checks in on a loved one either in person or electronically.

3) Activation Fees and Monthly Cost

Contracts

Medical alert systems generally don’t require long-term contracts. The contract should span month to month which results in monthly fees. Typically these contracts range anywhere from $25 to $45 a month. Be wary of paying for fees in advance because there may come a time when you may either need to drop the service or halt it temporarily for one reason or another (such as hospitalization).

Fees

Read the fine print carefully. Some companies like to hit you with all kinds of hidden fees and various complicated pricing plans. Choose a company that’s straightforward who doesn’t use ambiguous language to discuss their terms.

Guarantee and cancellation policies

Does the company offer a full money back guarantee if you’re unsatisfied with the service? Does the company give you the ability to cancel at any time?

Tax deductions

There’s a possibility that all costs associated with a medical alert system may be tax deductible. Talk to your tax person to see if this is the case for you.

Discounts

You’d be surprised with the sheer number of discounts out there. Ask for applicable discounts, such as discounts for veterans, multiple people in the household, etc.

Availability

There are plenty of companies that operate on an international level who provide medical alert systems. However, there may be some regions where these services aren’t available. If that’s the case, you can always look into local companies as opposed to international.

Check with a senior facility

Senior facilities often have their own “in-house” medical alert systems. They might also offer an external system, so check to see if such a system is being provided with their services. This is good to look into if you have a loved one in a senior facility.

Search online

You could always take your search online by looking for specific keywords. You could type in terms such as “medical alert systems,” “fall detection devices,” “medical alert,” “emergency medical devices” and so on. You can then type in your city and state to see if there are any local businesses nearby who offer such services.

Look for referrals

See if there are any friends or family who are currently using a medical alert system that they would recommend for you to use.

Reach out to your local area agency on aging

You might be able to find a list of businesses that offer medical alert systems by contacting your local area agency. You can contact them by visiting eldercare.gov.

Research quality of services

When you’re conducting your research, ensure the company has a good reputation. You can look at online reviews to see what other customers are saying about their products. Look out for complaints, but also look for compliments. You can even check with the Better Business Bureau to check out their reputation.

4) Learn the details of response time and monitoring

Customer service

How good is their customer service? Is there a live person who is available if you picked up the phone to call their helpline? Is their customer service line open 24/7? Do they have an FAQ (frequently asked questions) page that you can quickly access online? Do they have live chat on their website? Quality customer service is essential.

Cybersecurity

How safe is your system? How does the company protect you from getting hacked so that your private information remains confidential?

Response center

How fast is the response center? Even if it’s a false alarm, how fast did the company contact you? When it comes to nasty falls and other medical emergencies, every second counts. You can then look at how the operators are trained. Do they speak your preferred language? Will you be able to talk to the response center directly from the wearable system? Do you need to be near the base unit? Furthermore, is the response center certified?

The process can be very involved when it comes to choosing the correct medical alert system. Do the research so that you or your loved one will be protected at all times. Don’t be afraid to experiment with various services and companies. If you don’t like one, move on to another until you find the service that you love.

 

 

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