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how to compare medical alert systems for seniors

How to Compare Medical Alert Systems for Seniors and Regain Your Peace of Mind

Getting older is a real pain. Tasks that were once easy become harder, and sometimes even impossible. Along with this comes an increased risk of falls or sudden sickness because of medical concerns. For seniors who live alone, these types of episodes can be a major problem. A medical alert system can help to alleviate some of these fears. They can give you, or your loved one, the comfort of knowing that help is available quickly and easily in case of emergency. And when you’re older and have health problems, this is key to maintaining your independence. Here is how to compare medical alert systems for seniors who need a little peace of mind.

What are Medical Alert Systems?

Medical alert systems are small devices that are usually worn on a cord around the neck. They are connected to a security system and, when pressed, will send a signal that help is needed. Most are programmed to contact a relative, emergency services, or a 24-hour monitoring service. If the monitoring service is called, most often they will call the user to see if the call was an accident and proceed from there. The device should be worn at all times. This can give the wearer the confidence to remain safely in their own home despite illness or frailty.

Should You Buy a System?

If you suffer from illness, weakness or general frailty due to age, these systems are a great idea. Seniors who stay in their home are at high risk of tripping and falling because of weakness or illness. And if you do fall, you may end up in a nursing home or hospital afterward because of the resulting injuries or problems.

Living alone also presents another potential problem for seniors who fall. Afterwards, there is always the possibility that you will be unable to get up or call for help. This is not an uncommon occurrence these days. Everyone has seen the news reports of seniors who are stuck on the floor for days after a fall. A medical alert system minimizes this concern. They can give you peace of mind. And, make you feel safer if you have to live alone. Your loved ones will probably worry less about you as well.

grabbing chest in emergency

Shopping Guide

There are literally hundreds of companies online that promise the perfect system. It’s difficult to cut through all the promises and technical talk. This makes comparing the various medical alert systems difficult. Before you go shopping, there are several steps you should consider.

  • Your needs or the needs of your senior. There are a number of medical alert systems that are designed for specific illnesses or diseases.
  • Decide what additional options you want such as activity monitoring or motion sensors. These features record movement, detect falls, or direct users to check in at regular intervals. Systems with these features are more expensive, so choose carefully.
  • Look through product comparisons and features. This type of research doesn’t have to be exhaustive. You don’t have to find the absolute best system for your needs. There are a lot of options and that would take a very long time. Find a system that has the features you want at the price you want.
  • Create a call list. To set up the system you need to supply a list of who the system will contact in emergencies. Make sure the people you choose live close, have a key and are aware of medical conditions.
  • Think about installation. Some companies will install the system, others will let you do it yourself. If you aren’t technically savvy, choose a system that offers installation.

What to Look for

Medical alert systems come with a lot of different features. The most important features are the ones that suit your needs and lifestyle. Some of the more useful features you should consider are as follows.

  • Waterproofing. The call button pendant or wristband should be waterproof so it can be worn in the shower. Don’t even consider buying one if it doesn’t have this feature. Falls are extremely common in the bathroom.
  • Two-way voice feature. This will allow you to press the button and talk to the operator. If you or your senior falls, they shouldn’t have to worry about getting to the phone.
  • A call button. This is the obvious one. The call button should be large and easy to feel. There should be a call button on the main console as well as on the wearable pendant.
  • Power options. If the power goes out, the main console should have a backup battery it can run off. Also, make sure you know how long the battery lasts in the pendant and how to change it.
  • Extra options. Some systems come with medication alerts to let you know when to take your pills. Others are even more sophisticated with motion sensors or activity monitoring. Check the different options to work out what will fit your needs. And your budget.
hospital emergency room

What to Avoid

Medical alert systems can get expensive. They are invaluable in proving seniors and their families with peace of mind and support in emergencies. For these reasons, be careful when buying a system.

Here are several mistakes people make when buying a system:

  • Long term contracts. Some of these systems require that you sign up for years. Do not sign these. Find an option that allows you an out if you make a mistake.
  • Do your research. There are many different types of systems. Some include pendants whereas others set up a speaker phone in the house. Work out what you want before you hand over your money.
  • Make sure that your area is covered. Some systems are based off cell phones while others use landlines. Make sure you get a system that works with the available options in your house.
  • Check the strength of the system. Most systems only cover a specific area. If your loved one has a large house, this can mean that certain areas aren’t covered. Make sure your system works wherever your senior goes in their home.
  • Set up problems. If you buy a system that you have to set up, make sure you can do it. These systems can be more complex than you think. If you have any doubts, buy a system that includes installation. The systems that come without it may have little support if you have trouble with the setup.

Final Thoughts

Just because your senior has illnesses or limitations doesn’t mean they have to give up their independence. Medical alert systems allow them to contact help with the press of a button if the worst does occur. More importantly, they give worried seniors a needed boost of confidence. They are easy to use and reliable and will allow seniors to stay in their own home as long as possible. Being able to compare medical alert systems is an important part of the selection process.

Do you have any experience shopping for medical alert systems that you would like to share? What system do you recommend? Which ones would you tell people to stay away from? Leave your opinions in the comments below!​

About the Author Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

I work daily with seniors and the elderly in my position as a wheelchair specialist at a home medical company. I see the struggle they have maintaining their independence and living their daily lives. Most are completely unaware of the options and products out there that can improve their independence, mobility, and safety in their home. I created this site to help seniors, elders, and their caregivers make smart buying decisions about the many independent living aids on the market.

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