The CDC reports that falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among seniors in the U.S. As per the report, one in every four elderly individual falls every year, which translates into 3 million ER visits. The risk of your senior loved one falling and hurting them is very real, which is why caregivers are often concerned about fall prevention.
So what is the solution? There isn’t one, but many. You could invest in bed pads, or a door or window alarm, and even though they’re a must-have for independent seniors living alone, they aren’t exactly meant to send out alerts in the case of an emergency. And that is precisely why a panic alarm serving as a medical alert system can make an invaluable contribution towards the safety of your elderly loved one.
In an event of a medical emergency, such as a fall, a heart attack, or a crisis such as fire or a break-in, the panic button can be pressed for a few short seconds, and it sends out a distress signal and alerts your monitoring company. They’ll try and establish contact with you, dispatch help, as well as call 911.
For senior citizens, the panic alarm can be clipped on to a belt, wore on the wrist as a bracelet, or around the neck as a necklace. And it calls the pre-programmed numbers, so the family is alerted that their loved one in need of assistance. Some of these alarm systems have evolved into automated systems. Simply put, they send out a signal to the response center automatically in an event that you fall.
Panic alarms are life-saving technology, and that isn’t just a marketing phrase, they do save lives. If you’re a senior living alone or if you often find yourself away from home, an around-the-clock monitoring system can provide you with safety and your caregiver with peace of mind. Case in point, if you fall and cannot get up, summoning assistance can be as simple as pressing a button.
Before you decide on a company, you need to ensure that their response times are quick and their equipment is reliable. You’ll also need to ask yourself a few questions. Does your budget allow for a monthly subscription, a one-time fee, or no monthly fees at all? When you press the panic button, would you want your caregiver to be notified first or emergency services?
If you opt for a monthly subscription, the fees will add up over time, and if you’re on a tight budget, recurring fees might not be the way to go. Even though we’d recommend against them, if you do commit to a long-term contract, make sure that you can terminate it easily without having to pay additional fees.
The system types
Older medical alert systems rely on a landline to place the call to the monitoring center, and can, therefore, only be used inside your home. If you want a more reliable system than a landline (which can be down often), you have the option to go for a piece of wireless equipment. They make use of a base station to link your device to the call center. Every system has its own range which should be taken into account before you take the plunge.
These systems use cellular networks but a similar base station to connect you to dispatch. They’re the perfect solution if you don’t have a landline. More often than not, they also feature GPS tracking which can be useful if your loved one tends to wander.
Last but not least, we have mobile systems. They can connect you to the emergency responders without the need for a base station, hence the name. If you’re active and spend considerable amount of time outside your home, you can benefit from a mobile system.
But among a sea of options, a variety of features, and drastically varying fees, how do you pick a reliable system? Would you want your system to be monitored, so that you can summon help with the press of a button? Would you want the whole system to be home-based or would you want it to be mobile? Do you need the automated fall prevention feature? This post intends to answer these questions and more, in hopes that it can help you make the best purchase you can. Read on as we breakdown some of the best options available in the market today, along with a brief buyer’s guide you need to read before you go shopping.
Let’s jump in…
If the emergency response time and quality are your priority, this medical alert system from Medical Guardian should be on your shortlist. There are six different packages to pick from, which means multiple features and multiple fee structures.
Let’s kick things off with response time. The average duration between pressing the panic button and receiving a reply from the operator is about 28 seconds. That number is significantly lower than what most providers have to offer. To give you a rough idea, some services can take up to a minute, or even longer in some cases to connect you to their monitoring cell.
The response time might be the highlight for this system, but it also sports an impressive range of 1300 ft.
The panic button comes disguised as part of a smartwatch since many seniors are averse to the idea of wearing a pendant or a wristband expressive of their need for assistance. With the suite, you receive a pair of them, which in addition to serving as the panic button, also display text messages, weather updates, and fitness reports, just as any regular smartwatch would. These two smartwatches are part of their MobileHelp package.
If you’re looking for something more basic, however, their Freedom Guardian package might interest you. This watch has a rather simple, no-nonsense design but it also lacks some of the more advanced features of MobileHelp, including the health and fitness alerts. If your loved one isn’t exactly tech-savvy, this package should suffice.
These systems from Medical Guardian retail at a merited price. That said, if you are on a tight budget, there are more affordable options available.
Alert-1 has been in business for over 3 decades, and they offer some great systems at competitive prices. Their devices are user-intuitive, their packages are flexible, customizable, and they are generally very well-received.
The distress signal can be sent out via either a wristband or a pendant, which can link to either the base station or a cellular network. The product comes in five different suites: Home, Fall Detection, On-the-go, with the last two being combinations of the first two.
The Home package is the most affordable and uncomplicated of the five. It connects to the base system, which is hooked up to a base station which can then alert the monitoring center. The range which is about 600 ft could be just a hair better, as could be the battery-life.
However, the Home Fall Detection package takes the functionality a few steps further with automated fall alerts. The idea is fairly straightforward. If you fall while wearing the pendant, the base station is automatically alerted which then sends out a distress signal. Unfortunately, this package only allows you to connect the monitoring center via the base station.
Last but not least, we have On-the-go, which lets you clip on a device on your belt that directly connects you to the Alert-1’s center. The device, although waterproof, doesn’t support GPS tracking.
Alert-1’s offerings are solid, their long-term plans are more than affordable, and their selection is wide-ranging.
Looking for a reliable medical alert suite which won’t cost you a small fortune but can still monitor your loved one whether they’re home or mobile? If so, LifeStation’s alert system might be for you. You aren’t asked to commit to long-term subscription plans and their system is intuitive and user-friendly.
The system can employ either of their three different units: a base station which links to a landline, a base station which can connect to cellular, and finally, a mobile unit. If you also want fall prevention as well, it can be included as an add-on to the default suite. You can, however, pick between a pendant or a wristband to house your panic button.
Once the button is pressed, the monitoring center is alerted and from there on, they follow the already specified protocol: either notify the caretaker or call emergency services. The mobile unit comes with a GPS tracker which offers a certain degree of wandering prevention.
One caveat though, neither the pendant nor the wristband has speakers or a mic, so you’ll have to rely on the base station for two-way communication. In most cases, the mic sitting on the base station can pick up your voice from a fair distance. And its sound is loud enough to be heard across rooms. But if you’re not within the audible range, you’ll have to rely on the distress signal alone.
If you worry that landline isn’t reliable enough in case of emergencies, this next pick from MobileHelp might be the ideal bundle for you. As opposed to a landline connection, MobileHelp uses AT&T’s cellular network to connect you to the emergency response center.
Speaking of which, the response times are quick and the prices are competitive. At $29.99, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more affordable option within this price bracket. You get a further discount if you opt for the annual or the quarterly plan.
The equipment comprises of a cellular base station and a panic button which can be housed inside a pendant to be worn around the neck or a wristband. The cellular base station has physical backlit buttons which are a nice touch since they let you alert the center even when it’s dark. It draws power from the outlet, but it also ships with a backup battery, in case of a power outage.
Aside from the base-mounted emergency and the reset buttons, there’s also a test button which (as the name suggests) lets you test if the system is up and running without alerting the response center.
The Wearsafe Tag is as simple as they come, and by the same token, it is perhaps one of the most affordable panic buttons available in the market today. Priced at $5/month, this wearable button from Wearsafe Labs connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and can be pressed to summon help in case of an emergency.
It notifies your caretaker or family members and is compact enough to be worn on the wrist, or it can be clipped on to a belt or a bag. You can also put it on your keychain, that way you’ll always have easy access to it. Even if you are home, and away from your smartphone, the device works at a range of 200 feet. It draws power from a CR2032 battery which has to be replaced every six months. So you won’t have to worry about recharging it every few days, which makes it more reliable than many medical alert buttons.
So there you have it. A breakdown of the most recommended medical alert system, paired with a handy buying guide. And if you’ve read so far, you can probably tell that a lot of factors need your consideration before you purchase an alert system. Try and make sure you’ve done the due research before you go for a product because your loved one’s safety depends on it.