Medical alert systems can give you and your loved one’s peace of mind and can provide you with emergency medical help if you ever need it.
But with so many to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start when looking for the best system. Below, we’ll cover a little about how medical alert systems work, what features they have, and some things to consider before choosing one.
To choose the best medical alert system for you, consider:
- Your current medical conditions and how they might progress with time
- Whether you are homebound or mobile
- Your comfortability with, and ability to use new technology
- Whether you prefer cell phones or landline telephones
- What additional features you’d like from a system
- How much you’re able to pay for a system
Table of Contents
What Are Medical Alert Systems?
Medical alert systems are devices that connect the user with caregivers or emergency services in the event of an emergency.
Some systems, called monitored systems, will connect the user to an operator. The operator will speak to the user through the device, and depending on the situation, will contact the user’s:
- Friends or neighbors
- Emergency services
Other systems, called unmonitored medical alert systems, call a list of emergency contact numbers for the user. If the emergency contacts answer the call, they can speak to the user through the device. If no emergency contacts answer the call, then emergency personnel are sent to the user.
Some medical alert systems have additional features, like:
- Fall detection: if the device detects a fall, it will have an operator try to contact you. If you don’t respond, emergency services personnel are sent to you
- GPS: if you are wearing the device away from home and need assistance, the device will tell emergency personnel where to find you
- Waterproof device to wear in the shower or bath
Medical alert systems are connected wirelessly to your telephone or cellular phone, and use your phone service to make the calls to operators and emergency services.
How Do I Choose a Medical Alert System?
When it comes to choosing the best medical alert system, take some time to think about your personal situation. This will help you narrow down the system that will work best for you.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you decide.
Are You Physically Active?
If you regularly leave the house alone for walks or errands, you might prefer a mobile system rather than a home-based one.
This way, you will be protected no matter where you are. The system will be able to tell emergency personnel where you are if you’re not at home.
If you’re homebound or don’t really leave the house unattended, a traditional home-based system might work just fine for you.
Home-based systems tend to be less expensive, but they only provide protection inside the home.
Whichever system you choose, make sure you ask what the system’s range is.
Do You Forget Where You Are?
If you have a condition that causes you to forget where you are, a system with a GPS tracker can be useful.
This way, if you activate the device, emergency personnel will be able to find you even if you’re unable to tell them where you are.
Are You a Fall Risk?
People with balance issues, or other conditions which make them more likely to fall, often like the security that comes from a system with fall detection.
These devices are triggered by movement, and if the user falls while wearing it, an operator is alerted.
The operator will speak to you through the device and ask if you need emergency services. If you don’t answer, emergency services will be called right away.
Fall detection is also helpful for people who are unable to get up on their own if they do fall, even if they don’t fall often.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a fall risk, it’s important to keep in mind that a third of adults fall at least once a year, according to MedLine Plus.
Are You on Medication?
Some devices are able to remind you when to take medication. If you have trouble keeping all your pill times straight, this might be a helpful feature.
Taking medication as prescribed by a doctor is important for maintaining health, but over half of seniors are non-compliant with their doctor’s orders.
Do You Have Trouble Communicating on the Phone?
If you have trouble communicating on the phone due to hearing loss or speech impairment, you might consider getting a system that accounts for this.
Many systems, for example, will allow you to set up a plan in advance if you need to use the device.
This way, operators will know to call emergency services right away if you activate the device, or whatever action you choose for them to take.
How Are Your Fine Motor Skills?
Every emergency alert device is a little different. If you want a smaller, more discrete device, many are available.