The realities of aging can be challenging to accept for many. It can often seem easier to allow your older loved ones to feel “normal” instead of having hard conversations about assistive technologies.
However, the fact is that these technologies are essential for their safety and your own peace of mind. While they may feel like a loss of independence for your older relatives, they soon find that these devices actually offer a greater sense of independence. This is especially true for older people living alone, who you may worry about more than relatives who live with you or other loved ones.
One of the most important pieces of assistive technologies as people age is a medical alert system, which helps protect them when no one else is around to help.
What is a Medical Alert System?
A medical alert system is a technology that is designed to monitor the health of your loved ones. If the device notices an emergency with a person’s health, they will automatically connect with emergency medical personnel, sending a signal that help is needed in the person’s residence.
Emergencies in older people aren’t necessarily the same as they would be for younger adults. For example, falls are often minor concerns for people in their 20s and 30s – however, they can be especially dangerous for older adults, who are also less likely to alert authorities about a fall. Given that death rates from falls have been increasing due to this reticence, a medical alert system could literally be a lifesaver.
It should be noted that medical alert systems aren’t only recommended for people who live alone. Even if your older loved one lives with you or has other in-home help, having such a system is essential. The system provides alerts as soon as an incident happens, which can be crucial in emergencies when the other occupants of the property are out of the house, or the person in question is meeting friends alone.
In fact, these systems are so crucial for seniors that one study showed that 90% of older adults who live with caregivers wear one.
Types of Medical Alert Systems
There are two main types of medical alert systems – monitored and unmonitored. That said, don’t worry – while the name may imply otherwise, both options ensure your loved one will have help in the case of an emergency.
Unmonitored systems may seem like they’d be relatively useless, but this isn’t the case. The word “unmonitored” means that there is no professional team monitoring the device. Instead, in the case of an emergency, the device will connect the wearer to a pre-programmed emergency contact. This can be a friend, family member, neighbor, or anyone else you choose to add. The good thing about unmonitored systems is that you only pay the initial system cost – there are no additional monthly fees to worry about.
Monitored systems are essentially the opposite of unmonitored systems. You will have to pay a monthly subscription for these life alert systems, and in exchange, you’ll have professional monitoring the signal from the device at a monitoring center. Someone from the center will speak to you and determine whether you need emergency services or simply need to contact a loved one if it’s a minor issue.
Monitored systems often come with additional perks, depending on the brand. These can include medication alerts, daily check-in calls (if necessary), free coverage for your spouse, and more.
Both monitored and unmonitored systems have their benefits. That said, most people prefer monitored ones because there’s a guarantee that an alert will be responded to immediately. With an unmonitored device, there’s a chance that the person contacted may miss the call, be away from their phone, or simply not recognize the number as coming from the medical alert device.
Additionally, some monitored systems have automatic fall detection services, which contact the center immediately in the case of a fall followed by no movement. This ensures you get treatment for a fall injury as soon as possible, which is necessary because – as discussed above – falls can be especially dangerous for seniors.
Your life alert system may also be either mobile or attached in-home. In-home devices include a base station and a wearable device, and the device only works when near the base station. They also include a wall button to make setting off the system as easy as possible.
On the other hand, mobile systems can be carried with you wherever you go. They can be carried in your pocket, around your neck like a lanyard, or as a wearable device (usually a watch or necklace) and generally include GPS tracking so that emergency services can reach you easily when called.
How to Choose a Medical Alert System
When choosing a medical alert system for yourself or a loved one, it’s essential to assess your options carefully.
The first step is to research the options available to you. You should look at reviews and listicles, including checking to see the best medical alert systems at Chron.com, to narrow your list down to the best devices on the market. Then, assess your needs and determine what features you’re looking for from your device.
For example, if your loved one is active in the community, you should only look at mobile systems. However, if they are on bed rest, an in-home system is the way to go. Additionally, consider if additional features like automatic fall detection services are necessary. If you opt for a mobile system, ask your loved one what type of mobile system they would be most comfortable with – are they okay with a lanyard-style system, or do they want something more subtle, like a watch or a necklace?
Once you’ve determined the answers to these questions, you will be better able to find a medical alert system that your loved one will be comfortable wearing, which will reduce any pushback you may be worried about.
Of course, don’t forget about your budget. If you’re concerned about the cost of additional services but feel they are necessary for a device, you can consider checking with your insurance to see if it will cover some or all of the costs involved with the device. You may also consider contacting the manufacturer to see if they can set up a payment plan so that you can protect your loved one as soon as possible and pay for the device over time instead of saving up and going longer without a life alert system.
Medical alert systems may seem like an intimidating topic to bring up with your older loved ones. However, with a bit of background, they’ll soon understand the advantages and realize that these devices don’t have to be invasive unless absolutely necessary and will allow them to go about their daily lives with complete peace of mind.