5 Steps to Choosing a Medical Alert System for Seniors
A medical alert system can give you or your loved ones the peace of mind and security to live independently for longer, without fear of medical emergencies. But what should you look out for when making your choice? What are the ‘must-haves’? Here are the top 5 considerations when picking a medical alert system for a senior loved one.
A medical alert system is only ever going to be as good as the people at the end of the phone for support. These are the people who will be assessing the senior, getting the emergency help they need and then giving you all the information about the situation. In terms of infrastructure, it can be helpful to choose a service like Medical Guardian which has multiple monitoring centers. If one goes down for technical reasons, another can take over seamlessly. Check that training centers and staff members are certified. The ones to look out for are CSAA 5 Diamond and UL certified. If they have both of these certifications then you can rest assured they adhere to high standards of excellence and are tested regularly.
You might also want to look at how the staff are trained. Many companies such as Life Station make sure all their staff are EMD trained to dispatch emergency medical care, while Medical Care Alert take this a step further by only employing monitoring staff who are trained as EMT’s and can assess a medical emergency as accurately as 911.
Of course, the human element has to be a top priority when you’re looking after a senior citizen, and some features of monitoring services really understand this. As well as a quick response time (look for under a minute), companies like Medical Alert, for example, promise to stay on the line until help arrives, giving you peace of mind that your loved one does not feel alone in their situation.
Most companies compile personalized medical profiles so that the person on the other end of the phone has all the right information to hand to make the right decision for your loved ones needs. Lastly, make sure that whichever service you choose supports the languages you need. Some of the best medical alert companies support over 150 languages, which can give seniors comfort in an emergency.
2. Product Features
The basic function of a medical alert system is that you can push a button and be immediately connected to someone who can assess the medical situation and get you help. All the best systems will offer portable help buttons you can carry around the house, usually on a pendant or a wristband. Either the base will come equipped with a powerful microphone and speaker, or the pendant itself will offer two way voice communication. Look for a system which has a large range so that you can feel secure even in the garden or driveway. Anywhere from 600-1000 feet is more than enough for most homes. Whichever option you choose the help button should be waterproof as a large percentage of accidents concerning senior citizens happen in the bathroom.
One area to focus on is what happens without your loved one even knowing about it. Fall detection extras should ensure that even if the senior is unable to speak for themselves in the event of a fall, help will be dispatched immediately. Other monitoring of the home can also be included too. ADT Health offers temperature monitoring along with smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detection as well as support in case of an intruder. Some companies include a lock box with your key under a secure code which can be given to emergency personnel, or a Vial of Life which has all your important medical information ready for a third party.
If you’re buying a system for a senior who keeps an active lifestyle, you might want to consider a mobile solution. These can have unlimited range nationwide so that even if the user doesn’t know where they are in the event of an emergency, they can be found and treated.
Most medical alert systems can be fitted by the user, even if they are elderly or not very tech savvy. Usually the process involves fitting the base using a phone socket and an electrical outlet, so if they could plug in a small kitchen appliance or a telephone, they should be fine with a medical alert system. The help button can be used to test the system immediately and as often as they want to give peace of mind it’s set up correctly. There is also usually a toll free phone number to call for live support while the system is being installed. If you do not think your loved one can manage this, there are some companies that will send trained staff members to fit everything for you, but this will come at an additional cost.
Sign-up can be as simple as ordering your equipment and filling in an online form, or it may need you to fill in some paperwork with your medical details and emergency contacts and send it back to the company. Any problems with the equipment, you should be able to rely on the company providing a lifetime warranty and returns and replacements at no further cost to you.
4. Help and Support
Medical alert systems are not the most complicated technology, and there is usually enough information on the company website to give you an overview of what they offer. Look for a thorough FAQ section, as well as live chat for any specific questions you might want to ask. Toll free phone support is always important, and even better if it’s 24/7. Before you sign up, send a quick email to the help department and see how quickly you receive a response.
5. Pricing and Value for Money
As installation of medical alert systems is so straightforward, you are ideally looking for a company who has no set up fees at all. It is common to see an equipment fee for setting up a mobile GPS, but your monthly charge should be inclusive of all equipment aside from that. Some companies offer free trials, (30 days is a good amount of time) but try to avoid anywhere with lengthy contracts of more than a year, or steep cancellation fees. You can expect to pay anywhere from $30-$60 per month for a medical alert system.
The more basic ones are for home use with a landline connection but still offer 24/7 support. As the price increases you can expect cellular coverage (no landline necessary), fall detection, mobile use and added features such as temperature monitoring or intruder prevention. Value for money is also vastly improved if you can add a spouse of other family members under the same roof to your monitoring system. Some companies offer monthly or quarterly contracts but reduce the price per month if you sign up annually.
Make sure you find exactly what you’re looking for so that you and your loved ones can have the peace of mind to live independently and securely for longer. Check out our comparison chart of the top medical alert providers to get started.