Need a Medical Alert? - They're Not Just for Our Elders

Colin Grubb
Mar 22, 2017

We’ve all seen the commercials: An elderly woman -- alone -- at the top of a staircase -- with ominous music playing in the background. She trips over the top step and falls, tumbles down the stairs, and comes to a rest at the bottom, unable to move. The old 80s commercial stereotype may seem a bit overdramatic and corny now, but one thing hasn’t changed -- medical alert companies still primarily market their products to senior citizens and their families.

This is understandable, as falls are the leading cause of death from injury among those 65 and over. In fact, 9,500 deaths of older Americans are caused by falls each year. Medical alert systems, particularly those that come equipped with fall detection should the senior be knocked unconscious or rendered otherwise unable to speak, are an excellent way to prevent against disaster.

There is, however, an equally large group of Americans who could possibly benefit from medical alert systems as well. They are those living with a disability, and their families or caregivers.

People With Disabilities

“Disabled” can refer to a myriad of different physical, mental, neurological, and emotional issues. Technically, it refers to any condition that substantially limits a person’s ability to perform major life activities. These include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.

This covers a lot of ground.

Some disabled people must be constantly supervised and never left alone. Others, however, can. These individuals can often be at a significantly higher risk for injury, though. This is particularly the case with children.

Medical alert systems generally come with a remote device. This can be worn around the neck or as a bracelet. This 'emergency button' is easy to push for children, teenagers, and adults. That is given that the disabled individual in question is not cognitively or physically impaired to the extent that they cannot push it.

Your average system offers a range sufficient enough to cover most houses, say 600-1,000 feet from where the base station is installed. If the loved one is able to leave the house, then there are also GPS-enabled systems that will work anywhere.

Choose a company that operates its own, US-based monitoring center. In the event of an accident, all the individual has to do is press the button. Expert staff members are available round the clock, and are familiar with every conceivable situation. Although traditional systems require the person to speak to the control center through the base station, more recent models allow them to speak through the emergency button itself.

Regardless of whether or not your loved one is able to communicate the nature of the emergency to the control center, they will still immediately dispatch emergency personnel to the house and notify the family and/or caregivers.

A note on caregivers: Medical alert systems often benefit the disabled individual’s primary caregiver as well, allowing them the peace of mind to be able to leave the house for longer stretches. Caregivers are often under a great deal of stress by way of bearing constant and considerable responsibility. Being able to spend even a little time getting personal affairs in order and/or just resting, can benefit the relationship between the carer and cared-for immeasurably.

Fall Detection

What happens when a disabled person suffers a fall, which renders him or her unable to press the button on the transceiver? Fall detection-enabled medical alert systems use a variety of methods to sense the person has fallen -- automatically alerting the control center of the incident.

Types of technology include:

  • Acoustic – Small, sensitive microphones are placed around the residence to detect the vibrations associated with an individual falling.
  • Cameras – Need to be monitored by the control center 24/7, some people see this as a huge invasion of privacy.
  • Sensors – The most accurate. This is worn just like the alert button. Sensors within the device detect when the individual has fallen.

Getting Lost

GPS-enabled medical alert systems don’t have to be activated by the user or detect falls to be of considerable use. Let’s take, for example, individuals with autism.

Certain autistic children and adults need to be constantly supervised, as they are prone to fearlessly, and seemingly aimlessly, wandering off. This is a constant worry and stress to families and caregivers. Although there is no substitution for proper vigilance, a completely cellular GPS-enabled system can let family members breathe at least slightly easier by knowing that if the unthinkable happens, they’ll be able to find their loved one.

Some of these packages allow you the option of placing the tracking device inside a shoe or other article of clothing, in case you are worried your loved one will take off the pendant or bracelet.

If you are the caregiver of someone with a disability, take a look at our Top 10 Medical Alerts for this year. Depending on your situation, you might find a package that makes everyone’s life easier.