Which system should you choose?
Concerned about falling or needing help with a health problem when you’re alone?
Medical alert systems--where the press of a wearable call button either on your wrist or on a cord hanging from your neck putting you in touch with a dispatcher who can summon emergency help or contact a friend or family member—may offer some reassurance. You or your loved one at risk of falling or having a medical emergency may benefit from such a device.
If you’re considering such a system, which should you choose? The wide variety of features, service options, and fees can make it challenging to figure out what’s best for you. Also, you might wonder whether you can simply rely on the technology you already have, www.consumerreports.org/cro/cell-phones-services/buying-guide/index.htm" such as a smartphone. Probably not, t’s because it’s unlikely that you have your smartphone with you all the time. It’s easy to get up from a chair and leave it there. If you don’t have an emergency response system on your body that is going to stay on your body, you’re at risk.
And if you’re considering www.consumerreports.org/smart-home/voice-assistants-coming-to-every-room-of-home-ces-2018/" digital assistant, such as Amazon’s Alexa, for this purpose, note that it may not have all the features you need. For example, Alexa and Google Home can dial landline and mobile phone numbers. But right now, neither can call 911, which medical alerts can do.
Here are three questions to consider before you purchase a medical alert system, and a breakdown of the features and costs of eight companies’ offerings.
1. Do you want a home-based or mobile system?
Originally, medical alert systems were designed to work inside your home with your landline telephone. And you can still go that route. Many companies now also offer the option of home-based systems that work over a cellular network for those who may not have a landline. With these systems, pressing the wearable call button allows you to speak to a dispatcher through a base unit located in your home.
But many companies offer mobile options, too. You can use these systems at home, but they’ll also allow you to call for help while you’re out and about. These operate over cellular networks and incorporate GPS technology. This way, if you get lost or press the call button for help but are unable to talk, the monitoring service can find you.
Someone who is frail and doesn’t leave the house often may not need a mobile system, while an active older adult may want added protection outside the home, notes Richard Caro, Ph.D., a co-founder of www.techenhancedlife.com/" Tech-Enhanced Life, which evaluates and reviews products for older adults.
2. Should your system be monitored or not?
The systems we’ve provided information on below are all monitored, meaning that the call button connects you with someone at a 24/7 dispatching center.
But you have the option to choose a system that isn’t monitored. With these, when you press the call button, the device automatically dials a friend or family member on your programmed emergency call list. These products can often be set up to call multiple people and to contact emergency services if you don’t get an answer from someone on your list.
A key difference between the two is price. Monitored systems carry a monthly fee in addition to the purchase price for the device. But with unmonitored systems, you generally pay only for the device itself. Monitored systems may also have other fees, such as activation fees as well as minimum commitments or contracts. And their cancellation and return policies can vary from company to company.
3. Should you add a fall-detection feature?
Some companies offer the option of automatic fall detection for an additional monthly fee. Manufacturers say these devices sense falls when they occur and automatically contact the dispatch center, just as they would if you had pressed the call button.
That sounds great, but it may not work perfectly every time, says Neil Alexander, M.D., a professor of geriatric and palliative medicine at the University of Michigan and director of the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center. “The technology probably isn’t fully refined,” he says. In some cases, for instance, this feature may register something as a fall that isn’t. The alarm might go off if you drop it or momentarily lose your balance but don’t actually land on the ground.
Companies that offer fall detection charge $15 or less for it per month, so the additional cost isn't huge. But if you’re at high risk for falls, be aware that this feature isn't without potential flaws.
For a list of businesses specializing in medical alert systems that serve Butler County, please contact the Butler County Department on Aging at 316-775-0500 or email us at :DeptonAging@bucoks.com" DeptonAging@bucoks.com. We can offer a list and give you an idea of costs, including monthly fees and installation costs.
Butler County Dept. on Aging
Augusta, KS 67010
Ph: (316) 775-0500
Toll Free: (800) 279-3655