How to Find the Right Medical Alert System for You
From: Caring.com Best Medical Alert Systems of 2022 article
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every four older adults falls every year. Of those falls, 20 percent are serious, resulting in a broken bone, head trauma, or a similar injury. And, falling once doubles one’s chance of experiencing another fall in the future. There’s no way to completely prevent falls, so it’s crucial to provide immediate help when a fall does happen. This is where home medical alert systems can be invaluable.
Christopher Norman, GNP, explains that there are a variety of factors that contribute to seniors’ fall risk, including “changes in sensoria (vision/hearing/sensation), increased likelihood of weakness related to more sitting / less walking, too many medications, changes in center of gravity due to bone loss and height, improper footwear, and hazards in the home.”
There’s no way to completely prevent falls, but there are things seniors and their families can do to make one safer at home. Christopher suggests home modifications like installing grab-bars in bathrooms, as well as simpler changes such as removing throw rugs, rearranging furniture, and decluttering. “The long-term success of aging at home can be highly influenced with proactive steps,” he says.
One such action families can take is purchasing a medical alert system. The devices allow seniors to stay independent while making sure help is available when needed and can help prevent further injury or death after a fall or other emergency.
And medical alert systems don’t just provide security for seniors who are prone to falls- they have many other uses as well. Below, we offer examples of those who may benefit from medical alert systems.
Independent & Active Seniors
Falls don’t just happen indoors – a 2017 study shows that 48% of the most recent falls for seniors happen outdoors. Seniors who enjoy an active lifestyle and the outdoors can use life alert devices to maintain that freedom as long as possible. Mobile medical alert devices ensure that help is always available and that emergency personnel can find a user’s location.
Seniors who fall into this category should look for a medical alert device with the following features:
- Mobile Device: This gives seniors and their loved ones’ peace of mind, and it allows seniors to maintain an active lifestyle for as long as possible.
- Mobile GPS Tracking: Devices with the newest technology can be located with a much greater degree of precision, since they don’t just rely on cell service tracking. The best systems use multiple tracking methods including cell service, GPS, and WIFI hotspots.
Seniors Who Wish to Age in Place
Aging in place is becoming more and more popular, with 75% of older adults saying that they plan to stay in their current home for the rest of their lives.But, not having the constant presence of a caregiver creates a risk of falling and not receiving the necessary care.The risk is substantial for seniors – every 11 seconds an older adult is treated for a fall in an emergency room, and 25% experience a fall once a year.
Life alert systems can make aging in place safer for those with mobility difficulties and for those who receive in-home care. It’s especially necessary for those who don’t have a loved one or caregiver who stays home with them 24/7.
Seniors who plan to age in place should look for the following features in a medical alert system:
- Automatic Fall Detection: Those who struggle with mobility are at a higher risk of falls, so it’s wise to invest in as much protection as possible. Automatic Fall Detection doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it can be a lifesaver for those who fall and aren’t able to press their button.
- Voice Activated Wall Button: Following a fall, seniors may struggle to reach their personal help button. Voice-activated systems provide an alternative option for contacting the monitoring center and getting help when needed. It can also be extremely beneficial when seniors forget to wear their device in the home.
- Medication Reminders and Automated Dispensers: In an assisted living facility, staff would be available to provide reminders and assistance with medication. Those who choose to age in place and opt for home care don’t always have caregivers present to provide this service. Some companies, such as MobileHelp, provide medication reminders for those who often forget when to take their medications.
Seniors with Alzheimer’s or Dementia
60% of those with dementia will wander, and a senior with Alzheimer’s will often be unable to remember important information. Medical alert devices can help caregivers locate their loved ones if they become lost.
Seniors with memory impairment should look for the following features:
- Mobile and Home Device Combination: Seniors who may wander or otherwise become lost can benefit from a mobile device that allows their loved ones to track their location. But, a home life alert system that won’t stop working if they forget to charge their mobile device is also very useful. MobileHelp is an example of a company that offers an affordable bundle of a mobile and home medical alert system. The cost is $41.95 a month for both systems.
- Wall Buttons: Wall buttons are helpful in high-risk locations (such as the restroom) if you or your loved one forgets to wear the help button. Simply press the button and the monitoring center will be notified that help is needed.
- Geofencing: Geofencing can be invaluable for seniors who wander and ensures families are aware if their loved one leaves the set location.
- Battery Monitoring: A battery monitoring feature that notifies the medical alert wearer and/or their caregivers when it’s time to charge the device or the battery reaches a critical level is very helpful for seniors who tend to forget to charge their devices.
- Medication Reminders: Medication reminders help seniors who may forget to take important prescriptions stay on top of their regimen.
Seniors with High-Risk Medical Conditions
Almost 70% of older adults with diabetes will develop some type of heart disease, and about 1 in 6 will die due to a stroke. Many deaths could be prevented if the senior was able to get the help they needed in time. Medical alert devices can be lifesaving for seniors with serious medical conditions. Consider the following features that provide extra protection for those with high-risk conditions.
- Automatic Fall Detection: While not 100% reliable, automatic fall detection is an extra line of protection. If you can’t push your button during an emergency, automatic fall detection can prevent further long-term damage and may even save your life.
- Activity Monitoring: This premium feature uses extra motion sensors to detect a sudden change in activity level or lack of activity. If these situations occur, the system sends an alert to a loved one that something may be wrong.
- Caregiver Portal: An online portal that allows multiple loved ones and caregivers to have access and share notes makes collaboration between caregivers easier, ensuring seniors with high-risk conditions stay safe and their care is being properly managed. If there is an emergency, injury, or illness, all caregivers who have access to the portal will be in the loop.
For more on how to choose the best medical alert system, read our guide on the subject.
For more information about available medical alert systems, check out Caring.com Best Medical Alert Systems of 2022.