4 Questions To Ask Before Buying A Medical Alert System


the right medical alert system

There comes a time when we realize we need a little extra help. We're a little less firm on our feet, our health has changed, or maybe it's just getting a little harder to do things around the house that were once routine. How much, what kind and when to get the help is often the question. Do you need a few hours of help a day, around the clock care or would you be better off moving into a senior living facility?

What we do know is that over 90% of older adults express a preference to age in their own homes for as long as they can. We also know that older adults want to maintain their independence and don't want to be a burden on their loved ones.

That's why getting a medical alert system is so appealing to so many. It gives you access to help when you need it, it's always available, it's not intrusive and it helps you stay independent in your home a little longer, while giving you peace of mind during those times when you're alone.

But there are a lot more good medical alert systems out there today than there were only 5 years ago. That's great for consumers. However, it's important you get the right medical alert system for your individual situation, take advantage of the technologies that will benefit you and avoid those that won't. Most of all, we want to make sure you understand the various choices so that you're protected and don't put yourself at risk.

4 Questions To Ask Before Buying A Medical Alert System

1. Monitored vs. Non-Monitored

There are an increasingly large number of non-monitored medical alert systems on the marketplace. Basically, you pay a one time fee for the medical alert device and then program the device to reach a series of family members or caregivers when the help button is pressed in the event of an emergency.

The biggest advantage of a non-monitored system is that it's cheaper than a monitored solution, allowing you to avoid a monthly recurring monitoring fee. While there are some situations where it can be a recommended solution, in general we think medical alert systems with monitoring are better for the following reasons:

Benefits of Monitored Medical Alert Systems:

  • Trained emergency personnel know exactly what to do in an emergency situation
  • Agents are available at all times, 24X7, within seconds of the help button being pressed
  • Agents can stay on the line with the patient, while another agent calls for help, as is emergency protocol
  • Agents can be called for any reason and dispatch the appropriate help, whether it's an emergency situation (fall, heart attack, stroke, seizure) or non-emergency situation (locked out, disoriented/lost, not feeling well, scared)
  • Some seniors feel calling their family members for help would make them a burden and would prefer calling a 3rd party
  • Monitoring center can have list of medications and medical conditions on file to convey to emergency personnel
  • Agents can call the patients local emergency responders

One of the advantages of a non-monitored medical alert device is that can be used as a communication device, in lieu of a telephone. In other words, if your loved one finds it difficult to use a phone, they can simply press the button and their family member or caregiver will contact them, either through the medical alert device, the phone or by going to their room.

2. Do you need fall detection?

Automatic fall detection, does exactly what it's name says it does. It detects a sudden fall, using an accelerometer and automatically calls the monitoring center. The monitoring center will then attempt to speak with the patient via the two way speaker, and if they do not get a response they will send emergency response personnel to the location.

Unfortunately, many people who fall either hit their head and are knocked unconscious, or fall because they black out, have a heart attack, stroke or seizure and are unable to press their help button themselves. In those situations, you need a way to contact help without having to press the help button yourself. That's where automatic fall detection comes into play. When minutes count, they can be a life saver.

While all medical alert companies will say that fall detection does not detect 100% of falls due to liability, research shows that fall detection systems capture well over 90% of incidences accurately. If there's ever been a complaint, it's that the system may sometimes be too sensitive, initiating a response when there was no fall, such as when you sit down or bend over to quickly.

3. Do you need a mobile medical alert system?

There's a big push to mobile medical alert systems. The logic makes sense. Why get a system that only covers you in the home, if you can get one that provides you protection everywhere. We believe in medical alert systems. We just want to make sure you're aware of their limitations.

The first limitation, is that mobile medical alerts rely on cellular coverage for you to connect to the monitoring station. If there's no cell signal, there's no coverage. Most medical alert companies use AT&T, some use Verizon, and you can type in your zip code on an online coverage map to see how strong their signal is in your area. Regardless, we'd recommend you make sure you can return your mobile alert, cost free, in the event you don't get a signal in your home or where you most frequent.

The other issue with mobile medical alerts is that they require recharging. While not complicated, if someone is prone to forget, it could be a security risk.

Another issue is that some mobile medical alerts do not come with automatic fall detection. Oddly, this is especially true with some of the new smartwatches. We'd take simple tech with fall detection over fancy tech without it every time.

Lastly, if you're never outside your home without other people around you, then perhaps a mobile medical alert is not necessary. Even if you're alone, if you're in a grocery store and you fall or have a medical emergency, help won't be too far away.

4. What kind of mobile medical alert system are you getting?

If you find yourself outdoors and alone frequently, you might want to consider a mobile medical alert system. You can press the help button no matter where you are, speak to agents through your pendent and your location can be tracked via GPS to within 5 feet of where your standing.

That said, the majority of medical alert companies use a mobile device system we recommend avoiding. They require you to have a separate help button from the two way radio device, thus requiring you to carry two devices. Not only that, some even require you to use a separate fall detection device. Who wants to carry around 2-3 devices when your going for a walk, working in your garden or going for a bike ride.

Instead we highly recommend getting an all in one mobile medical alert device. In one slim pendent you wear around your neck, you get the help button, two way talk speaker, GPS and fall detection. Nothing else required.