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Choosing An Alert Device For Elderly Parents: A Comparison Guide

Choosing An Alert Device For Elderly Parents: A Comparison Guide

Medical Care Alert on Jun 21st 2022

Comparing alert devices for elderly parents or family members can be confusing.  Here are the top things to look for.

senior-woman-computer.pngIf you've begun comparing medical alert devices for your elderly parents you have lots to choose from, and a few big decisions to make!  You want something that will be easy for them to use, and give everyone peace of mind knowing they can get help in an emergency.

Before we go into the different options to choose from, let's review what goes into a medical alert system:

  • Emergency Help Button
    • Your family member will have an emergency help button to wear, typically around their neck as a pendant or on their wrist as a bracelet.  When they need help, they simply press the button.
  • Two-Way Voice Communication
    • Once the emergency help button has been pressed, it will initiate two-way voice communication with the Emergency Response Center.  For an in-home system, this is typically done through a speakerphone connected to the home landline (or via cellular if no landline in the home).  Mobile medical alert systems with GPS tracking will have a small cellular alert device with speakerphone built in (more on this later!).
  • Emergency Response CenterEmergency Response Center Medical Care Alert
    • Once the emergency help button is pressed and the medical alert device sends a signal to the emergency response center, your loved one will speak with an operator who will ask if they need help.  Depending on their response, the emergency response center agent may either notify a friend or family member, or in an emergency they will dispatch EMS/Police/Fire help as needed.
  • Family Notification
    • Upon dispatching help, the emergency response center agent will notify family and others on the notification list that help has been sent to your loved one's location.

So in choosing an alert device for elderly parents, it's important to make sure the service you choose covers all those basic feature and will meet their lifestyle needs.  Here are some important considerations:

  • Do they need coverage just at home, or everywhere they go?
    • If just at home, you'll want an in-home medical alert system that has sufficient range to protect them in and around the home and yard.  For example, make sure the button range will extend to the mail box or garden area where they might fall and need help.
    • If they are active and need coverage everywhere they go with GPS tracking, you'll want a mobile medical alert system with GPS and cellular communication.  These alert devices work everywhere there is cellular coverage and provide tracking and location services so that emergency services can be dispatched to their exact location.
    • Some active seniors may prefer a smart watch with fall detection and GPS to wear on their wrist, and get the additional benefit of a built in pedometer and other useful features.
    • Our GPS devices come with a smartphone app for caregivers to track the device location, get notifications when they leave or arrive home, low battery alerts and more.
  • Do they need Automatic Fall Detection?
    • Automatic fall alert detection means the emergency help button has sensors that can detect rapid changes in movement, indicating a fall.  When a fall is detected, the button will initiate the call to the emergency response center by itself.
    • Automatic fall detection is useful for folks who frequently fall, are prone to blackouts, or otherwise might not be able to press the emergency help button on their own.
    • Note that fall detection is not 100% guaranteed and that the wearer should always press their button if they are able to.  For example, slumping out of a chair might put someone on the floor but there is not enough motion to set off the sensors to indicate a fall occurred.  
  • Will they wear their emergency help button?
    • Make sure they are comfortable wearing an emergency help button.  If they won't wear it, it won't be available to them in an emergency situation.  Help alarms for seniors work best  if they are wearing the button.  Some families will add wall mounted buttons in the bathroom and other areas where they might fall.
  • Do they lose power at their home?
    • If they lose power at their home, will they also lose their telephone line?   In those cases we recommend a cellular based system so they can still reach emergency services during a power outage.  For example, our in-home HOME system with cellular communication built in also has a 24 hour battery back up - this allows your folks to press the button and get help during a power outage.  It works independently of their personal cell phones, so no cell phone or additional contract is needed.
  • How will EMS enter the home if the doors are locked?EMS Ambulance
    • This is a common question we get: will EMS break down the door if it's locked? The short answer is: YES!
    • If you live in an apartment or condo, your building likely has a "Knox Box" or similar way for EMS to enter the building and apartment with a master key, preventing the need to break down a door.  Check with your building management to make certain this is available for emergency services.
    • In a free-standing home or other situation without a "Knox Box" we provide a combination lock Lock Box to hide a key.  When EMS is dispatched, we provide the location and secret combination code so they can access the key and not have to force entry into the home.  The lock box relieves the concern many families have about getting a medical alert system for seniors that could cause damage to their door.

Medical alert devices for seniors can summon help for any reason: medical, police or fire emergencies are most common.  The majority of emergency help alert button presses are for falls, followed by shortness of breath and general illness.  It's comforting to know your elderly loved one can get help at the touch of a button 24 hours a day, 7 days a week including all holidays.