Many caregivers invest in medical alert systems because they want to know that those they care for and love will have medical help available, even if they cannot reach a land line and call for help and even if they do not have a land line. Many of the new systems available have mobile features that are perfect for those who have a more active lifestyle. You can feel safe and confident when your loved one goes to the doctor, visits the community center or just stays with family for a few days.
A medical alert system is a type of system that works with a dispatch office in another location. When the user presses a button on a base unit or a mobile device, it sends a signal to the main office, and operators working in that office can then contact you or another loved one or notify emergency rescue workers in the user’s city. As you usually pay a fee for the unit and then a monthly service fee, you need to understand the benefits of these systems and what some of the best systems are.
Benefits of Home Medical Alert Systems
Looking at some of the top benefits of home medical alert systems is a great way to find out how these systems can meet the needs of loved ones. In addition to the standard systems that will work with that individual’s home phone line or land line, you’ll find newer systems that can work with a cellular network.
One big benefit is that these systems offer constant monitoring. If you have a loved one who is a little on the forgetful side, you can pick a system that had a medication monitor that will alert the user as to when it’s time to take that medication. Other systems will let both you and your loved one set alarms and alerts for different things, including lunch or dinner time and bed time.
Many manufacturers now offer built-in additions and features that you can add to your existing system. One that comes with a carbon monoxide detector will monitor the atmosphere inside the home and send out an alert when this level climbs too high, and some can even call an operator with this information and let the operator know that he or she should call the fire department.
Elderly people often have trouble remembering certain things, which can make it hard for them to call 911 because they aren’t sure how to respond to the operator on the other end of the phone. With a medical alert system, your loved one has the option of pressing a button to call for emergency help and letting the operator know when to call 911 without that person answering a number of difficult questions first.
Tracking and Location Identification
If you have a loved one suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s or a similar medical condition, you know that they can often wander out of the house. That is why many companies now offer tracking systems that come built inside a bracelet or necklace. The monitoring company can use that tracking system to find and identify the current location of your loved one.
Whether you have an elderly loved one living on his or her own or with you, you can use one of these systems to give that individual more independence. Elderly people may not want to live in a retirement home or an assisted living community. You can give them the independence to live on their own while still monitoring them when you’re not around.
With some of the newer and more modern systems, you can set up the system to call for help in certain situations. When it detects the presence of smoke or carbon monoxide, the system can automatically call the nearest fire station and send firefighters to your home.
Automatic calling can also come in handy after a slip and fall. An elderly person may feel too embarrassed to call 911 after falling in the shower or feel leery about calling for help and having strangers walk through their homes. An automatic calling feature will let your loved one call an operator, describe the situation and ask the operator to call you or another person on an approved list for help.
Signs You Need a Medical Alert System
Caring for someone of an older age or someone with one or more advanced medical conditions is hard, but medical alert systems can make your life easier. No matter how much care you offer, you should still look at some signs that it’s time to install a medical alert system in the home of a loved one.
The biggest sign that a medical alert system is necessary is when that person lives in a rural area with few neighbors or those who are a little more independent. The fewer visitors they have, they less likely it is that someone will stop by and notice when that individual had a medical emergency. A medical alert system offers help for those who live further away from their family and friends too.
A large number of people canceled their land lines and use only their cell phones. Depending on the reception in the home, you may find it helpful to have a separate system that lets your loved one call 911 and reach others who can help. If you use cordless phones and forget to charge your batteries, these systems are a good idea too.
Prone to Falls
As humans age, their bodies go through a number of natural changes that can make them feel dizzy and leave them prone to frequent falls. While you might find that you can get back on your feet again after recovering for a few minutes, a fall can leave an elderly person with a concussion or a broken bone that makes it impossible for them to stand or reach their phones. Medical alert systems let them call for help with just one push of a button.
Chronic Medical Conditions
Chronic medical conditions are those that have symptoms that may increase and decrease over an extended period of time. Diabetes is a good example of a chronic condition that can impact your vision, activity level and even memory. Anyone suffering from a chronic condition can benefit from a medial alert system.
Medication Side Effects
Elderly people and those diagnosed with certain medical conditions often suffer from a number of symptoms and can experience side effects when taking medications that can leave them feeling dizzy or interfere with their mobility. When you provide an elderly person with a home alert system, that person can call for help and get in touch with medical professionals after experiencing any of those side effects or any potentially dangerous symptoms.
Caregivers like home health assistants help elderly people and others dealing with medical conditions take care of their needs, including taking medications, eating healthy and cleaning up. If you worry that the caregivers looking after you or a loved one may suffer from burnout, you can install a medical alert system to give those workers breaks.
Professional caregivers can experience burnout because they work too long without taking a break or because of the way your loved one acts when you’re not around. With the right system, you let them take breaks and still take care of your loved one. They can take a short walk, go out to lunch or even run errands around town while knowing those they care for still have someone watching over them.
What to Look for in a Medical Alert System
One vs. Two Way Communications
A system that uses one way communications allows a wearer to press a button and let the dispatch office know that there is an emergency. The downside to these systems is that the office doesn’t know the type of emergency and may send police, an ambulance and firefighters to a home just to help someone get out of the tub. Many people prefer two way systems that allow wearers to communicate with the office and give the office exact details about the situation.
The top systems come with both a console and a separate piece of technology that the user actually wears. This technology can look like a simple necklace or a bracelet that you can wear around your arm or neck. Keep in mind that some may come with two way communications through the console but only one way through the wearable.
Activity monitoring is a helpful feature found on some systems that can make the loved ones of an elderly person feel more confident. The system will come with a button on the console that the user must press every six to 12 hours, which will send an alert to any registered users like siblings or children. If the user does not press this button as instructed, loved ones will know that they need to check on that person.
Multiple Help Buttons
In addition to the console and the wearable piece, the system should come with help buttons that you can install in various areas around the home where your loved one spends a lot of time like the living room and his or her bedroom. Installing multiple help buttons around the house gives that person the chance to contact operators and send out an alert after falling down, slipping in the shower or losing his or her balance.
Land Line vs. Cellular System
Before choosing a medical alert system, you need to decide between one that communicates via a cellular system or a land line. Land lines will work with the land line your loved one already has and uses daily without the new system interfering with the calls he or she wants to make.
Those who care for elderly people who are more technologically savvy may prefer a system that works with a cellular network from a major provider like AT&T. Your loved one does not need to lay any new lines or even sign up for cell phone service. In more rural areas, land line systems may be more suitable.
Range refers to the distance away from the base unit at which the wearable device will work. Most have a range of between 500 and 650 feet, but some of the cheaper systems will require that users remain within 300 or 350 feet of the console to use it.
The cost of the system ranges between companies. Some charge an activation fee to set up the system and then a monthly monitoring fee. Others charge no activation fee but a monthly monitoring fee, and some companies will let you pay for a year or more of monitoring upfront.
Monthly monitoring fees usually start at around $30 per month, but this figure can rise to $50 or more every month for one of the mobile units. If you want a family plan that offers protection for every person living in that household, you might pay $100 or month.
Make sure that you read the fine print to learn more about the contract terms. Though some companies let you try out the system without signing a contract, others will ask that you sign a contract of up to three years in advance. If you want to cancel your contract, the company may ask that you pay a small fee or a fee equivalent to the rest of your contract.
Keep in mind that you need to decide between signing up for the plan under your own name or under the name of your loved one. If you plan on paying the bills yourself, make sure that the company has your address down as the billing address but your loved one’s home as the shipping and contact address. This ensures that the operators never make the mistake of sending emergency help to the wrong home.
Medical Guardian Systems
Medical Guardian has a strong reputation among the elderly and some great reviews online. Often consider one of the top five medical alert companies operating today, it actually offers five different programs that can benefit your loved one. You should learn about each one of those programs and compare your favorite to other plans before signing up.
Classic Guardian is the most affordable package that the company offers, and when new members sign up, they can get all the protection that you need for less that $1 per day. This package comes with a base station that acts like a console and a separate emergency help button. The emergency help button comes with devices that users can wear as either a bracelet or a necklace and lets them call for help when they are up to 1,300 feet away from the base station.
The base station works with the home’s land line and plugs into an outlet but comes with a battery that can keep the station running for up to 32 hours during a power outage. Lights on the base station come on when it has a connection and when anyone presses the emergency call button, which will automatically call an emergency operator. The included emergency button has a water-resistant design that makes it suitable for wearing in the shower or tub.
One of the best features of the Classic Guardian is that everyone in the family or home can use it. Medical Guardian will connect the system to your home and not one individual user to ensure that all members of the house can stay safe and get emergency help.
Home Guardian from Medical Guardian is a little more expensive, but it uses cellular towers and does not require that users have or maintain a land line. As with other packages, Medical Guardian does not ask customers to sign a contract and does not charge an activation fee. The package comes with both an emergency help button that you can wear on your person and a base station.
As the base station uses cellular communications, it has a shorter range of just 600 feet. As long as the user close enough when he or she hits the emergency button, it will send an alert to the base station, which will then contact emergency operators. Those operators can call 911 and arrange for other help to come to the home.
The emergency help button comes with attachments that let users wear one around their neck like a necklace or on their wrist like a watch or bracelet. Buttons on the included base station let users call for assistance or reset the system after making a call.
Another option that some might like is the Mobile Guardian, which the company designed for those who spend more time out of their homes. This is much smaller in size and can fit anywhere in the home, but your loved one can also remove the device and insert it into a watch or necklace attachment for use away from home. There is an optional leather carrying case that you can buy separately for keeping the button in a convenient place like a purse or glove box.
This is a great option for anyone who cares for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia too because it has a built-in GPS. That GPS reports back to the home office and allows the office to monitor the wearer 24/7. Not only will this help you find a lost loved one, but it also lets the office find the exact location of the wearer if he or she cannot talk.
As it does not require a base unit, it has an unlimited range that helps the office identify the wearer’s location, even if that person is in the middle of nowhere. It comes with a small base that acts like a charger for easily charging the battery before leaving the house. Once charged, the battery will last for a full 24 hours.
Though Premium Guardian is one of the more expensive options available from Medical Guardian, it also increases the personal safety and medical security provided. The package comes with a charging cradle that automatically updates the software as needed and can completely charge the device’s internal battery in just four hours. It also comes with the Premium Guardian device.
This small device has a more compact shape that can fit in a pocket when working around the house, playing with grandchild, gardening outside or while running errands around town. Its two way communications design lets the user hear the operators on the other end while ensuring that they hear everything he or she says too. A built-in GPS lets the company monitor the wearer’s actions and track the user’s current location anytime of the day or night.
Its newest package is the Family Guardian package, which offers complete and total protection for everyone in your home. Its base station features a large emergency call button that you can easily find and press during an emergency. The station has a handy reset button that will completely reset the system later.
An included medical alert button sends a signal to the station when pressed to contact the operators standing by. This button can work as-is or when placed inside a necklace or watch attachment for actually wearing on the body. This package also comes with three health sensors that you can place around the home to monitor what guests and loved ones do on a daily basis.
The Family Guardian Mobile App makes this one of the best packages you can get. This app will work with the sensors to detect the activity of each user daily and create a detailed report that it sends to registered users. You can actually use this app to let loves ones know that you’re okay or to check on loves ones you monitor through the app.
In addition to its packages and plans, Medical Guardian offers items that you can add on like wall buttons that you can place on walls in the home that let users call for help when they cannot cannot reach the emergency button or base station. With one of its lock boxes, you can store an extra key to the home outside and gain access to that home anytime you need or in case of an emergency involving your loved one.
Other optional products include extra emergency buttons that you can give to each member of your family and fall detection pendants. This pendant will automatically identify when the wearer has a fall and call for help right away without the user pressing the emergency button. The pendant is water-resistant for wearing in the bathroom.
Medical Guardian offers medical alert systems that are suitable for all types of users and can work with a home’s existing telephone line or nearby cellular towers.
Life Alert Systems
Do you remember the old television commercials that showed an older woman on the floor and crying out, “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”? If so, then you should know the name Life Alert, which was the company behind those commercials. Life Alert is still one of the most popular medical alert system companies in the world and had customers leave more than 30,000 testimonials on its website since 2008 alone.
Though Life Alert offers different types of packages, its most popular package consists of both a main unit and a pendant that the primary user wears on his or her body for emergency assistance. All equipment sold has UL certification and requires no maintenance to ensure that the system can contact help whenever the need arises.
Unlike other pendants that are water-resistant, the pendant sold by Life Alert it waterproof to help users call for help via the button on the front whether they’re outside in the rain or stuck in the tub. This pendant comes with a separate attachment that lets the user put the button inside for wearing it like a watch on an arm. The pendant features a battery that can last for up to seven years and a design that lets it work up to 800 feet away from the main unit.
When first released, Life Alert required that users have a land line that it hooked up to its main unit. That main unit can still rely on a land line but can work with a cellular connection too. In case of a power outage, the backup battery inside that unit will keep operating for up to 72 hours.
All the offices owned by Life Alert are in the United States, and operators monitor all devices 24/7. As soon as someone presses the emergency button or the button on the main unit, someone working in one of those offices will respond and determine who to call for help.
Life Alert now offers a standalone emergency help button for use in the bathroom. This button has batteries that can last for up to a full decade, and the button does not require any electrical power or even a phone line. When pressed, this button will provide instant contact with an emergency dispatcher who will ask about the situation and decide what to do next.
This button can help avoid embarrassing accidents when an elderly person slips in the tub. Instead of sending paramedics to the home just to help that person get out and get dressed, the dispatcher can contact a child or friend and let that person know that the user needs assistance.
New features that you can add to the package include an audio monitoring security system. This system uses small microphones that can pick up even the tiniest of sounds. This lets users listen for robbers or other people outside the home.
Once the user detects something out of the ordinary, the user can press the emergency button that corresponds with those microphones. Dispatchers can listen to those sounds and understand the reason for the call without asking a lot of questions. They can then arrange for a police car in the area to stop by.
Life Alert Mobile is perfect for those who spend a lot of time away from home. With the mobile version of the classic home system, you can now let your loved one get emergency help while out of the home. Whether the user leaves a phone inside while gardening or loses a cell phone in a car accident, the mobile system will still keep the individual safe.
This product will work in any location with a GSM cellular network available. When your loved one presses a button on the mobile device, it calls into a local office and lets the user talk with a dispatcher about the reason for the call. That dispatcher can call police, fire and rescue or an ambulance.
As the mobile device has built-in GPS, the dispatcher can even find the user’s current location and tell help exactly where to go. It comes with batteries that last for up to 10 years and do not need charging.
You can also sign up for the protection offered by the Life Alert mobile app, which you can download to a loved one’s smartphone. This app then lets the user press a dedicated button on the phone to connect with a Life Alert office and get in touch with a dispatcher. That dispatcher will not only call for help, but he or she will keep talking until that help arrives.
Though many people know Life Alert for its old advertising campaign and commercials, the company now offers a number of products that can keep you safe at home and on the go.
Bay Alarm Medical Systems
Another popular manufacturer of medical alert systems is Bay Alarm Medical. This company offers products that feature an emergency alert button. Pressing that button puts users in touch with an operator who will decide whether to call your loved ones or professionals.
Its most basic package is its in-home medical alert system. This package comes with a base unit that has a bright red button right in the center on the front that can call for help when hit or pressed. It comes with a separate emergency button that users can press when further away from the base unit.
Installing this unit is super easy. As it works with any land line, you simply plug a cable from the telephone line into the back, plug the power adapter into the bag and then plug that adapter into an available outlet. You can then press the button to test the system and ensure it’s working before you leave a loved one home alone.
A great benefit to this system is that users can actually take it with them. As it works with any land line, they can plug it in and use it in a hotel room or a loved one’s home. The battery inside will last for up to 32 hours and automatically charge itself after a power outage.
If your loved one does not have a land line, you can sign up for its cellular network plan, which works anywhere AT&T has coverage. Users do not need AT&T coverage themselves, but Bay Alarm Medical does recommend that you check the available strength of the AT&T network in the area you will use it before you sign up. This system comes with the same battery backup that will automatically charge itself when the home has power again.
While many medical alert systems will keep your loved one safe at home, Bay Alarm Medical offers a system that will keep that person safe while on the go. Its GPS Medical Alert System almost looks like a music player or a small electronic but uses the AT&T network to monitor and track a user’s location 24/7. That makes it a good choice for those who care for loved ones who tend to wander away.
The button on this device puts users in contact with a live operator any hour of the day or night, and a speaker button on the device helps them tell that person everything about their situation. The operator can even use the device’s built-in GSP to find a user, if the user isn’t sure of his or her location. It comes with a charging cradle and a battery that can provide power for up to 72 hours.
When you sign up for one of the in-home or cellular packages offered by the company, you can add an automatic fall detection system for one low price. A long cord around this emergency button lets users wear it around their neck. It can identify a fall and send a signal to the main unit from up to 800 feet away to get someone out to help that person get up, and the wearer can use the button to signal help too.
Though Bay Alert Medical isn’t quite as large as some of the other companies that make home alert systems, it still makes some good products that you might like using.
If you like the idea of the protection that these products offer but dislike the idea of paying a monthly fee for services, you might invest in one of the standalone products available that charge just one fee for the individual product for your loved one to use.
Elderly Home Help Alarm Life Monitor
Assistive Technology Services offers this Elderly Home Help Alarm Life Monitor that can help an elderly person contact loved ones during an emergency. It comes with a panic button that for wearing around the neck neck and a second panic button that fits around the wrist. As it is water-resistant, users can wear it while showering or bathing, and it’s safe for use around those with pacemakers.
This small monitor connects to the telephone line and will automatically dial up to three phone numbers that the user programmed and saved when the person hits either of the emergency buttons. You can even have your loved one set up a personalized message that will go out to those numbers. As this system calls specific people and not a random operator, it does not charge a monthly fee.
Smart Caregiver Two Call Buttons & Wireless Caregiver Pager
If your loved one has a paid caregiver working in the home, or you have a loved one you look after, you can use this Smart Caregiver Two Cal Buttons & Wireless Caregiver Pager set to get some privacy and give each other more freedom. The pager uses just two AA batteries and will work hundreds of feet away from either call button to let that caregiver work outside, make dinner or just sit downstairs and read the paper while the main user naps.
When the user presses the call button though, it sends an alert to the page to let that individual know that the wearer needs help. Each button uses a bright green sticker with an image of a bell on it that users can find when they need assistance. Two included extra buttons can work in other rooms of the house to increase a user’s safety and protection.
Just in Case Medical Alert Pendant on the Go
Some people assume that the elderly are homebodies who would rather spend time at home than outside, but Just in Case knows that some are a little more active, which is why it makes this Medical Alert Pendant on the Go that users can take anywhere they want to go. The emergency call button is so large that anyone can easily identify and press it, even if they have limited mobility or vision problems. A built-in speaker helps the user clearly hear the operator who responded to the call and lets that operator hear the user too.
When it first arrives, you need to charge it for several hours on the included cradle, but it can then last several days before it needs another charge. You can also program the device to call approved numbers of people to let your loved one call for help when needed, and as it is water-resistant, your relative or friend can wear it in the shower or the rain. This medical alert pendant uses the AT&T network and requires a monthly service fee, but it the user is outside that network or did not pay the fee, it will automatically dial 911.