How to Choose a Senior Medical Alert System

Senior citizens have more health risks than adults or children. Senior citizens with severe medical issues often choose to live in an assisted living facility or a nursing home due to these ailments. Not all seniors are at risk enough to justify moving into one of these facilities. One of the ways senior citizens continue to live independently without putting their health at risk is to purchase a medical alert system, sometimes known as a personal emergency system or a medical emergency response system.

In the past, the benefits of medical alert systems were limited. In 2019, medical alert technology has significantly grown and currently provides new types and options. Most medical alert systems come in the form of necklaces, bracelets, wristbands and watches. Two primary types of alert systems exist, including monitored and non-monitored. Use these general tips to make selecting a medical alert system easier for you or your loved ones.

Monitored Medical Alert Systems

With a monitored medical alert system, you are directly connected to a responder when you push the alert button on your device. The device uses a two-way intercom system, so you and the responder freely communicate no matter where you are inside your home. You must be within range of the alert system base installed in your home, so you cannot reach a responder if you are outside of your house. When you contact the responder, he or she walks you through the emergency and reaches out to your emergency contact list. The responder stays in communication with you until one of your emergency contacts arrives to help you. If necessary, the responder contacts emergency services on your behalf.

Some of the newest monitored alert systems utilize a cellular connection instead of connecting to a base unit. This allows you to use your alert system outside of the house if there is cell access.

Select monitored alert systems are available with automatic fall detection. These units automatically ping a responder when you fall. This is an important safety feature if you are too injured after a fall to activate your emergency alert system. If a fall is detected, the responder tries to contact you before reaching out to an emergency responder.

Non-monitored Medical Alert Systems

Non-monitored medical alert systems are similar to the monitored versions. Both devices are connected to either a base unit installed in the home or a cellular connection. The main difference is a non-monitored device does not reach out to a responder. Instead, the device is programmed to run through a list of phone numbers. You choose who is on your phone list. Most senior citizens have the device contact friends or family members first and list 911 or other emergency services if no one on the list responds.

Some non-monitored medical devices allow you to preprogram a message. This is an excellent option for seniors with limited communication. Several non-monitored medical alert systems are equipped with an automatic fall feature which cycles through the emergency contact list until someone responds.

Reasons to Use a Medical Alert System

Medical alert systems are commonly used by seniors with limited mobility who are afraid of falling in their home and being unable to get up. Medical alert systems are useful in emergency situations, such as something in the house catching on fire. Select medical alert systems come with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Medical alert systems allow seniors to contact police if someone breaks into their home.

A medical alert system is intended for seniors who are mostly independent but need help in specific situations. You should not purchase a medical alert system with the intent of using it frequently to address a disability or medical condition. These are more severe circumstances where you are better off living in an assisted living facility or nursing home. Additionally, if you have a condition or disability which requires immediate treatment, it is best to live in an assisted facility.

Budgeting for a Medical Alert System

One of the first concerns for a medical alert system is cost. Today, numerous medical alert systems are on the market, each with different features. If you commonly leave the house, you may benefit more from a cellular medical alert system. If you commonly leave the house with a friend or family member, you may not need a cellular system, since someone is on hand to assist you. Cellular systems are often more expensive than systems with a base unit installed in your home.

Another pricier option is GPS tracking. If you normally leave the house on your own this is a useful option. Automatic fall detection is typically useful for any senior, but if you are shopping on a budget you can save money by selecting a unit without this feature.

The shape of the device changes the price. Typically, medical alert systems designed to blend into your clothing cost more. This is especially common with alert systems shaped like watches or necklaces. Some seniors select these units because they are more comfortable than bulkier units. You must select an alert system you are always comfortable wearing, so it is worth investing in a more comfortable model over something you do not want to wear.

Other Medical Alert Features to Consider

Look for designated features when you are selecting a medical alert system. Many companies provide a risk-free trial, giving you a small period to test the medical alert system before committing to a purchase. This is an excellent way to test multiple systems to find the right one. Another feature to check for is battery life. Today, most medical alert systems are designed to last up to 24 hours, with most seniors charging the battery when they sleep. Some units offer longer battery life. Less expensive units use smaller batteries or are only designed to be used on short trips.

Another helpful feature is waterproofing. If you are worried about falling in the shower and being unable to get help, invest in a waterproof unit so you can bring it into the bath or shower. If you get a monitored alert system, check if the system has live representatives available 24/7 or if limited hours exist where you can reach a responder. If the company only has limited hours, it is better to purchase a non-monitored system instead since it defeats the purpose of owning a monitored alert system.