More and more elderly people choose to live at home and on their own instead of going to a nursing home or retirement community each year. They are confident (and in the case of my grandfather, delusional!) that they can take care of themselves, they don’t want to leave the home they have known for most of their adult life, and they might not be able to afford skilled care.
As the child or loved one of one of those people, you may feel a little less confident about his or her abilities, but investing in a medical alert system can make you feel better about that living situation.
Though some people assume these systems are only for those who are significantly older or those who suffer from a host of medical conditions, these alert systems are suitable for anyone over the age of 70 who lives alone or with one or more other people. Medical Guardian and Life Alert offer systems that can offer help during a home invasion or a medical emergency.
Medical Alert Systems
Gross came up with a business plan and started his company out of his own apartment. He worked directly with both elderly people who needed help and their loved ones to develop the perfect products for their needs.
His company now offers five different alert systems that we’ll explore below.
Protection Plan and Services
The first product from Medical Guardian that you should look at is its Classic Guardian, which was the first plan it offered and is still one of its most popular products. This system allows anyone in the home to reach a trained operator at the first sign of an emergency.
Medical Guardian requires that all the operators working in its office, which is in the United States, go through the same training that 911 operators do to ensure that they can handle any type of emergency.
This package actually consists of two separate pieces: a base unit and an emergency help button. The base unit has a two-way speaker on the front that the person using it can use when communicating with an operator. That operator can then speak back to the person and ensure that the user can hear him or her.
When you set up the base unit, you must put it in a central area of the home. Though it has a range of 1,300 feet, the person wearing the emergency help button must be within that range to communicate with an operator via the base unit.
It also has a 32 hour battery backup that can power the base unit during a power outage, but this system will only work with an existing land line.
As an elderly person moves around the home, he or she can call for help via the emergency help button. Medical Guardian offers two different ways for users to wear this button: on a pendant necklace around the neck or on a strap that wraps around the wrist.
Though some people still think of elderly people as technology illiterate, many of those over the age of 70 now use smartphones, and some smartphone users love their phones so much that they get rid of their old land lines.
While Classic Guardian requires a land line to run, Home Guardian call work with a cellular network. As it uses a national carrier for this service, you don’t need to worry that your loved one can’t reach help when needed.
This system is very easy to use because the included base unit features just three buttons. When you first set it up, press the test button to send out a test alert to ensure it’s working properly.
Once your loved one uses the system, or you want to ensure it works after a power outage, you can use the reset button to completely reset the system.
Another helpful button on the base unit is the emergency button. The bright red color of this button ensures that anyone in the house can find it. The base unit also has a 30 hour backup battery that will work during power outages.
As with other systems, your loved one gets an emergency help button for wearing on the wrist or neck. This button will work at a distance of 600 feet away from the base unit. You can add the optional automatic fall detection to this button to have it automatically send out an alert when your loved one suffers a fall and cannot speak.
Medical Guardian lets you add on products to this system like a lock box, a wall help button or extra emergency buttons for other people living in the home.
Whether you live with an elderly person, or that person lives in his or her own home, you probably worry when you hear about your loved one running errands, visiting the doctor or doing other things outside of the home.
Mobile Guardian is one of the best choices for those who are more active. This system allows a user to contact operators both in and out of the home.
This is great for those who like taking short walks around the neighborhood, those who do volunteer work, elderly people who work part-time jobs and those who like spending time with friends and family.
It uses built-in GPS technology that helps operators identity the location of a user. That technology is also helpful when those with Alzheimer’s wear it.
The base station that comes with the Mobile Guardian package also works as a charging cradle. It charges the mobile device that users carry in only two hours, and that battery can then last for up to 24 hours. Medical Guardian includes a leather case that protects the mobile device from damage.
Mobile Guardian has an unlimited range and allows users to communicate with operators via a two-way speaker.
It comes with emergency help buttons for wearing on the wrist or neck that can send a signal to the mobile device from a distance of up to 350 feet. That offers protection at home when users leave the mobile device plugged in at night to charge it.
With Mobile Guardian, you can feel better about a parent, family member or friend when you can’t be there. It lets you know that there is always someone nearby to help.
The ultimate system for those who split their time between home and activities outside the home is the Premium Guardian package, which works in the home and when the user is on the go.
This comes with built-in fall detection technology that can monitor how the device sits to determine when a user suffered a fall. An operator will then attempt to communicate with the user, and if the user does not respond, the operator can send out paramedics.
It also comes with built-in GPS for finding those who suffered an emergency away from a registered address. A user may fall when getting out of a car or lose consciousness after a car accident. Operators can use the built-in two-way speaker to talk to the user and then use the GPS coordinates reported to determine where to send rescue workers.
This system comes with a small mobile device that is almost as small as the emergency buttons found with other systems.
It’s small enough for users to carry with them everywhere they go. This device is available with or without the fall detection feature, though most elderly users will prefer having that built-in protection.
Medical Guardian includes a charging cradle that will automatically download and upload any new software updates to the device to ensure that it offers all the protection needed.
This cradle lets users keep the device anywhere they want, including on a nightstand next to the bed or on a table in the living room, and it fulls charge the battery in the mobile device in four hours. That battery will then run for 36 hours.
The newest system available from Medical Guardian is one that offers protection for the entire family and one that lets all family members keep an eye on loved ones.
Called Family Guardian, this is a system that consists of sensors and an app that you can download and use on your phone or tablet. Other family members can access that app to view the information it records too.
Family Guardian comes with a base station that features an emergency help button as well as a reset button and a test button.
It has a backup battery that powers the device when the electricity goes out, and this base station works with the emergency help buttons that multiple people in the family can wear and use. When they press their buttons, they can communicate directly with a Medical Guardian operator.
The three included sensors that you can put around the house monitor and keep track of users’ daily activities in a day story.
You can then view the day story to see when someone walked by a sensor and which time they passed it. The app will also show you a weekly activity log of all the activities recorded over the last week.
With Family Guardian, all registered users will receive notifications when the sensor detects the person woke up in the morning, if that person left the home and if the individual missed a meal. It also updates you of extreme hot or cold temperatures in the home.
What are the differences?
Life Alert is the company that most people think of when they think of home medical alert systems. This is due largely to its first infomercials, from the late 90s, that starred a woman falling and having trouble getting up. “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” the line from that commercial is now a part of everyday language.
Life Alert offers one basic home medical alert system and other products you can add to that system as well as some standalone products.
Protection Plan and Services
Premium Service for Medical Emergency Situations
The main system offered by Life Alert is the premium service or package that offers assistance during situations involving a medical emergency.
This is the same system featured in its popular infomercials and commercials. The system offers 24/7 protection and operators who stand by the phone lines to answer any calls made by users.
As with Medical Guardian systems, this system comes with a signature main unit with a two-way speaker that helps users communicate with operators. They gives you the option of how you want your loved one’s system connected to the head office.
You can opt for a cellular connection that uses a national cellular network, but you can also arrange for the company to hook the system up through a land line in the house.
Another helpful feature of the signature main unit is that it comes with a backup battery. While it uses standard power when plugged in, it can use its backup battery for up to 72 hours if the power fails. The unit will automatically recharge that battery as soon as the power returns.
Emergency pendants work with that main unit and are waterproof to ensure that a loved one can get help even after spilling water on the pendant, while wearing it in the shower or using it during a storm. Users can wear the button on a wristband or a necklace.
This emergency button will work when up to 800 feet away from the main unit, and it comes with a battery that lasts for seven years.
Life Alert Mobile is a newer system that Life Alert introduced after learning that its customers wanted on the go protection that they could also use at home.
This small mobile device measures just 1.75-inches by 2.75-inches. While it comes with a cord that lets a user wear it around the neck, it’s also small enough for convenient storage in a car’s glove box, a pocket or a purse.
To make things easier for users, Life Alert designed the mobile device with just one button. That button is easy to reach and works with the two-way speaker to let a user talk with an operator.
Operators can then call 911 to send paramedics or other rescue workers to any location, even if a user contacts the office while away from home.
This system relies on the GSM cellular network used by a major cell phone service provider, and it works in locations all across the country.
When a user presses the large emergency button, it sends a signal to the office via the network to ensure that each person can communicate clearly with the other. This also makes it the type of medical alert device that your loved one can use while on vacation alone or with others.
Unlike other products that require users charge their devices at least once a day, this mobile device never needs charging. It comes with a powerful battery that will last for up to 10 solid years. As long as the user keeps paying for the service, this mobile device will keep working.
Protection on the Go Via a Mobile App
One of the hardest parts of growing old is learning that your brain no longer functions the way it once did. As your parents get older, they’ll likely find that they have a hard time remembering the numbers of their loves ones.
They may even have troubles finding their phones or knowing when to call for help, which is why this service is so handy.
Life Alert Protection on the Go is essentially a mobile app that users can can use via a smartphone like an iPhone or a new Samsung phone.
Those who have a smartphone will need to download the right version of the app that will work on their smartphones based on the operating system they have. This app will then connect them to the Life Alert Center when they need help.
The Life Alert Center is the dispatch center that the company stocks with trained operators. It ensures that there are always operators on staff and actually employs more operators than any other company does.
Those operators will stay in touch with users from the moment they call to the moment help gets there.
This app makes it easier for those with memory problems to call for help because they can just open that app and immediately connect with the center.
Those who have older or more traditional cell phones can work with Life Alert to set up a special speed dial. This lets them press one button on the phone to reach the dispatch center almost instantly.
Do you find yourself worrying about your loved one falling in the tub and laying in the bathroom for hours before getting help?
This is a common problem that plagues many seniors today. Even those who have walk-in tubs and non-slip shower mats can still fall and have a hard time getting back up again.
The Life Alert HELP button is just one way you can assist your loved ones and ensure that they can call from help from the bathroom or any other area of the home. This is a more basic medical alert system that consists of just one single button.
The button has a simple design and is easy to install on any wall, but you can also put it on a bathroom or kitchen counter as well as a table or nightstand next to the bed.
This button has a white background that helps it blend with the decor of the room, but it also has a bright red circle on the top that highlights the word HELP in the center.
A user can hit this button to contact an operator, and the operator will decide what type of help to send after talking with the user and will stay on the line until those people get there. The operator can even arrange for loved ones of the user to come out instead of paramedics.
One of the best benefits of installing a HELP button is that you never need to worry about putting it next to an outlet. It comes with internal batteries that last for up to a decade.
Home Intrusion Protection
This is a type of audio monitoring that functions like an emergency help button. It comes with a two-way speaker that has a built-in microphone capable of picking up even the tiniest of signals.
That microphone helps operators listen and hear everything that your loved one hears to identity the exact root of the problem and why the user called without requiring that the user talk.
When someone attempts to break into your parent’s house, your mother or father might become an assault victim. This system allows your parent to hit the emergency button and let the super sensitive microphone alert the operator of a possible break in or another type of crime. The operator will then call 911 or the local police department and get one or more officers to the home as fast as possible.
The operator will also talk through the microphone and let those criminals know that the device records everything they do and that police are on the way.
This will usually make the criminals move on, especially as they can hear the operator calling the police through the speaker. Life Alert can add this feature to most of its packages.