A medical alert system, also known as a personal emergency response system, is a device that is used to contact first responders and family members in case of a fall, medical emergency or other incident requiring emergency attention. Millions of families across the country use a medical alert device to ensure the health and safety of senior adults who live alone or are on their own during the day.
Here are some key questions and answers to help you learn more about these devices and determine if you should get one for an older adult in your family.
How does a medical alert device work?
A basic medical alert system comes with a base unit that is placed inside the user’s home and a call button that is worn on the body as a pendant or wristband or clipped to the belt. In case of an emergency, the user presses the emergency call button which connects them to a family member or friend or a dispatcher service (if they’ve subscribed to one).
Unlike traditional models, new-age medical alert systems do not require a landline telephone connection to work as they come with built-in cellular connectivity. Advanced models have additional features such as fall detection, portability, internet and GPS connectivity, 24×7 monitoring, mobile app, feature customization, and more.
Who should use a personal emergency response system?
A medical alarm system is useful not just for the elderly but for anyone who needs constant monitoring owing to a chronic health condition or physical disability. If you or a family member lives with a condition that may require emergency medical assistance, it would be good to have a medical alert system in your home.
For someone who is at a high risk of falls or has a chronic illness, it’s better to stock up on medicines before they run out. Order and check prescription prices online and get them delivered at home if one is unable to go outdoors especially during a pandemic. In case of an emergency, having well-timed access to critical care can mean the difference between life and death.
Should I choose a home-based unit or a wearable device?
A home-based system is good if the user spends most of their time indoors or in the proximity of their home (visits neighbors, spends time in the lawn, for example). In-home systems have limited range but they’re good for home use.
On the other hand, the main advantage of a GPS-enabled wearable is that it enables family and first responders to find you if you’re lost and can be used to provide immediate assistance wherever you are. If you’re an active senior adult who loves to spend time outdoors, a wearable medical alert device will provide you access to round-the-clock outdoor emergency care. Top-of-the-line devices offer pan-country service provided you’re connected to their cellular service when traveling.
If you’re not sure which medical alert system is best suited to your needs, check out these in-depth reviews of the top 5 best medical alert systems that offer a ready-to-use comparison of features, services and associated costs.
What is a Lockbox?
A lockbox is a box with a security code that is placed at a safe location outside your home. It is used by first responders to open your main door if you can’t get to the door in case of an emergency. A lockbox helps prevent damage that could occur from breaking into your home and ensures that timely help will reach you when you’ve had a fall or fallen unconscious inside your house.
For an older adult who lives alone, a lockbox can be a useful addition to their medical alert service.
What other features should I consider when buying a medical alert system?
Once you’ve decided whether you need an in-home system or a wearable, you should then consider additional features such as GPS, round-the-clock monitoring and automatic fall detection. Consider which functions you need that will make your life less stressful and ensure greater safety for your loved one. Note that some additional features (such as 24×7 monitoring and lockbox) come with a monthly fee.
In addition to these functions, you should also consider factors such as equipment quality, price, additional charges, battery life, water resistance, health tracking, ease of use, warranty period, contractual obligations, and the quality of customer service offered by the seller.
Lastly, remember that a medical alert system will work well with good cellular coverage, so it’s important that you choose a product that uses a reliable cellular network. It is also advisable that you buy a device that’s certified by a trusted cellular company.
Additional resources for special needs families: