- Medical alert systems for seniors
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Medical alert systems for seniors

Medical alert system the elderly Seniors are often at risk of major health events, especially when their health begins to deteriorate. Medical alert systems have been developed to guarantee emergency monitoring for seniors, ensuring that these are safe and secure at all times. Whether the senior lives at home or in a long-term care community, the medical alert system can notify either caregivers or the trained personnel when something is wrong. When the device is triggered, a signal is sent to the general monitoring system. The personnel will then decide on the best course of action, either contacting the emergency service or family members.

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What is a medical alert system?

As mentioned above, the medical alert system is designed to help seniors in case of a major health event. These systems can guarantee that the medical personnel will intervene as soon as possible, possibly saving the senior's life. It is a known fact that falls and other injuries can be life-threatening, so having such a system available can make a genuine difference. These systems are known as care extenders, being recommended for seniors who live alone but also for those integrated within long-term care communities. Based on modern technology, the medical alert systems ensure the necessary bridge between the senior and the triage system, reducing the impact on the emergency service at the same time.

How do medical alert systems work?

Medical alert systems function on the basis of modern technology, allowing real-time monitoring and location tracking. As a result, the medical alert system is the best option for expedited personal emergency assistance in seniors. The operator receiving the alert has access to the senior's information, including his/her medical history and any listed emergency contacts. Most of these systems use the GPS technology, this being the primary reason for which they are able to alert the medical personnel in a timely manner. Some of these are especially designed to detect falls, sending a special signal to the operator.

Each medical alert system will follow the same approach, despite having different features to offer. In case of a major health event, the user will press the corresponding button. As previously stated, some systems automatically detect falls, without the user having to press the button. The emergency operators will receive the associated signal, including the user's location. As a result, the operator will try to contact the senior, so as to assess the situation. Should there be no response, the operator will contact caregivers or the emergency services, in accordance with the actual need. Should the senior live within long-term care communities, the initial response will usually come from within the respective center.

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Medical alert system features

If you are interested in a medical alert system, it might be a good idea to check out the different features these might present. Keep in mind that some of these systems only connection to a landline, while others are using the same technology as smartphones or even have Wi-Fi. To benefit from the smartphone technology, you do not need to be a customer of any provider, it is enough to live within the network range. It might also be important to understand that all medical alert systems have a device range. Should you go outside that range, the pressing of the emergency button will not trigger the desired alert.

Naturally, there are medical alert systems that can be used outside the home, being equipped with a long battery life. These devices do not have a limited range, so you can use them when traveling. The one thing you will need, however, is a strong connection, whether cellular or Wi-Fi. The activation of the medical alert system will mean that the device in question has connected to the monitoring center. As a result, the monitoring center operator will be able to respond to the alert and contact the emergency service, should assistance be necessary.

The help button is often large and easy to press, with many manufacturers opting to create a waterproof version. The battery life, as you will notice for yourself, is long (five-day batter life on some devices). Most medical alert systems have a nationwide coverage on cellular systems, so the connection is ensured no matter what. Upon purchasing such a system, you will also receive a lifetime equipment warranty. Depending on the device, you might also benefit from location tracking. In shopping for such systems, you should check whether the device connects to a landline or cellphone network, and the promised range.

State-of-the-art medical alert systems have advanced location detection. The battery might last longer, up to seven days. Some models come with a belt clip and magnetic lanyard, so that they can be easily used. You might also find a model which is voice-activated or has the automatic fall detection feature. Manufacturers have also created medical alert systems as smartwatches, including the SOS feature, along other security functions and step trackers. Another interesting feature refers to the ability of setting up your personal emergency contact list. There are models that offer free monitoring for your partner. When integrated with home monitoring system, they have additional features, such as: activity tracking, personal lockbox, medication reminder, and sensors for fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide.

If desired, you can schedule a daily check-in call for an additional fee. As a result, a call center operator will call the phone, in order to make sure that everything is okay. Many medical alert systems come with their own app, which can be used to stay connected with caregivers. If the system does not have the fall detection feature, the manufacturer might provide a necklace to that purpose. Some systems combine several fall detection technologies. The device detects a person falling as soon as it has happened. It might be equipped with a barometer, which is meant to identify the differences in air pressure. Last, but not least, it comes with a sensor to guarantee the best possible accuracy.

For whom are medical alert systems recommended?

Medical alert systems have been developed for seniors who are still independent but want to make sure they are covered in case of major health events. Whether these continue to live at home or move into a long-term care community, they can benefit from using such a system. These devices allow for medical emergencies to be addressed in a timely manner, easing the caregiving burden at the same time. If seniors have certain health risks, for example they are prone to falling, they should definitely consider a medical alert system.

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The fall detection feature most systems are equipped with can be life-saving, given the obvious difference it makes. Also known as the automatic fall detection, it basically senses when a senior has taken a fall. The sensors used to this purpose are known as accelerometers, detecting motion without fail. As soon as the event has occurred, an alert will be sent to the monitoring center. Wearable sensors are available with most devices, with specialists recommending the necklace or wristband options. Recent studies have confirmed that the necklace option is the most accurate. With the wristband option, normal arm motions can lead to false alarms. Ambien sensors might be offered along the actual medical alert system, as these can help with fall detection. They function with the help of Wi-Fi and can be mounted on the wall, being voice-activated. It is common for such sensors to be installed in the areas of the home where there is a high risk of falling, like bathrooms. As soon as the sensors have detected a fall, the emergency monitoring center will be notified. The operators will try to contact the senior and determine what the next step should be. Should the senior fail to respond, the emergency service will be immediately contacted, and the designated caregivers will be notified.

As a general rule, any senior who is at risk of falling, regardless of his/her age, should consider purchasing a medical alert system. Age remains is a decisive factor, especially since older adults present a higher risk of major health events, such as stroke, heart attack, etc. Medical alert systems can help those who are living with chronic conditions, including dementia, dealing with confusion and cognitive decline.

In-home versus mobile medical alert systems

The in-home medical alert systems are designed to be used inside the home or long-term care community, being connected to a landline in most cases. They also have a limited range, which means that the alert cannot be transmitted to the monitoring center, should one exceed it. On the other hand, mobile medical alert systems are meant for those who are traveling or need to handle various tasks outside the home. They have a long battery life and there is no limit whereas the range is concerned. These systems do not require landline phones, being connected to nationwide cellular networks. In shopping for such systems, you will have to think about the main purpose. Will you spend more time at home, or you are always on the go? The answer to this question will guide your final decision.

If you are suffering from a chronic condition or you are dealing with mobility issues, you might benefit from using an at-home medical alert system. This is valid whether you are living on your own or within a long-term care community. The base station is usually set up in the central area of your home. The help button can be worn around the neck or wrist, but there are also wall-mounted versions that can be considered. Before deciding on a particular cellular connection, talk to the respective provider and inquire about the coverage. Many systems of this kind also have additional features to offer, including air and temperature monitoring, motion detection, and medication reminders. It can send alerts in case of carbon monoxide poisoning, for instance.

Seniors who are active and in fairly good health might benefit from on-the-go medical alert systems. It does not matter where you are going or how often you are leaving, the system will ensure that you benefit from help in case of an emergency. These devices function, as stated, with the help of the GPS technology. The help button can be worn around the neck or wrist, or it can be clipped to the belt. Many seniors prefer to carry it in their pocket or purse. Others prefer the necklace option, as it offers the quickest access in case of a major health event. As seen above, the fall detection feature is available for an additional fee.

For those who prefer less obvious solutions, you might consider the medical alert system in the form of a smartwatch. This is clearly a good choice for adults who have kept the pace with modern technology, valuing discretion above all else.

The cost of different medical alert systems

A quick look at the best medical alert systems on the market will reveal the price differences between various devices. The Medical Guardian has a monthly fee starting at $30, with an at-home range of 1,300-1,400 feet. It connects to either the landline or cellular networks, and for another $10, you can benefit from fall detection. The Bay Alarm Medical has a fee that starts at $25, with a range of 1,000 feet. The fall detection feature is available for $10 as well. Other devices, such as MobileHelp, LifeFone, ADT Health, GetSafe, and Lively have similar fees, including for the fall detection. Some devices have this feature available for free, but this is not usually the case.

Most medical alert systems have transparent pricing plans, without hidden fees. However, if you are interested in a protection plan, you will have to pay extra. Some of these devices have a free trial system, which means that you will get to use the product and see how it works. If you are not satisfied, you can return it. Additional features, such as the daily check-in, the caregiver notification, or the lockbox, are also available at extra cost. The more add-ons your device has, the higher the overall costs are going to be. The good news is that there no processing or equipment fees to worry about. Battery backups can be purchased separately in case of a power outage.

Benefits of medical alert systems for seniors

Medical alert systems serve an obvious benefit, helping seniors receive care or assistance as soon as it is needed, especially in case of a major health event. Whether you are using at at-home system or you prefer the on-the-go version, the purpose of the device is the same. These devices are meant to reduce the potential complications associated with health events, including falls. This is the reason many of them have an automatic fall detection feature. They are easy to set up and use, with many companies offering customer support if needed. Some versions are even equipped with built-in voice prompts, which are meant to guide the user through the setup process.

Here is a short summary of the advantages that medical alert systems have to offer:

  • Rapid intervention in case of a major health event
  • Location detection thanks to the technology used (GSP) - essential if someone has suffered a heart attack, stroke, or other severe medical issues (quickly found by the emergency service)
  • Quick finding of those who are at risk of wandering, as it happens in seniors with dementia (as a result of memory loss and cognitive impairment) - advanced location detection
  • Activity trackers - at-home systems are equipped with activity sensors, so that caregivers can monitor the movements of their loved ones; if the usual activity patterns are not identified or movement is absent, an alert will be sent to the caregiver
  • Caregiver notifications - depending on the user preferences, caregivers can be the first notified that an emergency has occurred; some medical alert companies offer the notification feature free of charge, while others perceive a monthly fee
  • Bluetooth technology - specialized alert systems have this technology integrated, so that they can be easily connected to other smart devices; you might even connect these to window and door sensors, reducing the risk of wandering in those who suffer from dementia

Monitored and unmonitored medical alert systems

The unmonitored medical alert system does not connect to a monitoring center. Should the senior press the alert button, it will automatically connect to the emergency service. If the device also has an emergency contact list, it will connect to someone from there, as previously selected by the senior in question. A monitored system, on the other hand, will send the alert to a monitoring center. The trained operator will oversee the respective calls, assessing the situation on the spot, and deciding whether the emergency service is required or not. The same operator might assume the responsibility of calling family members or other caregivers.

Industry specialists recommend the monitored medical alert systems, as seniors do not always require the assistance of the emergency service. It is also possible that emergency contacts do not respond or miss the respective alert. The staff working at the monitoring center is trained to handle emergency situations and are able to provide the necessary assistance without delay. From a different perspective, a monitored system will ensure that the emergency service is not overloaded with patients who do not need such healthcare.

However, if you are just looking for basic protection and you are not interested in paying a monthly monitoring fee, you might consider the unmonitored medical alert system. Many seniors prefer for their loved ones to be their emergency contacts, so choosing such a system makes sense. A message might be recorded in the system, which will be sent to the emergency service or contact in case of a major health event. Some medical alert systems have a built-in microphone, which ensures the desired communication between the user and the recipient, after the respective message has been played. Even though unmonitored systems have no monthly fees, you have to be aware of the fact that these offer fewer features.

What happens at the monitoring center?

Once a senior has pressed the alert button, a notification is sent to the monitoring center. The alert should be received within 15 to 30 seconds. Some medical alert systems might have a faster response, depending on the technology they are using. You will find the response time listed for each system, along other useful features.

As mentioned above, the operator will first try to contact you and evaluate the situation. Many seniors customize the alert system preferences, so the monitoring center operators will have to take these into account. They might call the emergency service as instructed or follow the personalized intervention plan. For example, some seniors might want for their emergency contacts to be notified first. To guarantee that the best possible care is offered, the operator will refer to the senior's medical records. These will be shared with the emergency responders, including details about one's health history and prescription medications. Knowing all this information beforehand will ensure the quick and effective response of the emergency service.

If the monitoring center has managed to establish contact with the respective senior, they will usually remain on the line until the emergency responders have arrived. Aside from the actual medical alert system, seniors are encouraged to install a lockbox outside their home, where they would place an emergency house key. This ensures that emergency responders or caregivers can enter the house, without causing any kind of damage. Many providers offer the lockbox for free with the purchase of a medical alert system.

Medical alert systems can help seniors benefit from rapid intervention in case of a major health event. They function with the help of modern technology and have a wide array of beneficial features, including waterproof help buttons, long-lasting battery life, and nationwide coverage on cellular systems. Many of them come with a lifetime warranty and servicing for top-of-the-notch functioning.

Seniors can choose between in-home and mobile medical alert systems, each having different benefits to offer. One of the most important features is the fall detection, which can save a person's life. As for the cost, you might notice that the more features a medical alert system has, the more expensive it will be. However, given the advantages to be derived, such purchases are very much worth it.

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