Though medical alerts have seemingly become inextricably linked to senior citizens, when they were first introduced into the market, they were intended as a home alert system for people who were sick, disabled, elderly, or for anyone who lived alone. As they became more popular over time, however, medical alert companies soon realized that their largest demographic was 65 and over.
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, tumbling down the stairs, finally coming to a rest at the bottom, unable to move, her hands stretching out towards the camera. The trope may seem overdramatic and corny, but one thing hasn’t changed—medical alert companies still primarily market their products to senior citizens and their families.
As a result, many people who could benefit from a medical alert system don’t even consider them as an option because of their primary association with “old people;” when in truth anyone, at any age, can benefit from immediate access to emergency care.
Who Should Get a Medical Alert?
“In 2009, 34% of people hospitalized for stroke were younger than 65 years”
A stroke happens when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. In both cases, brain cells become oxygen-deprived and begin to die. This can lead to neurological deficits, paralysis, or even death, if the patient doesn't receive aggressive treatment immediately after the incident.
Though it's common knowledge that the risk of a stroke increases with age, a stroke can happen to anyone at anytime. Factors that can greatly increase the risk of stroke include: high blood pressure, heart diseases, diabetes, smoking, and personal or family history of strokes. If any of these apply to a family member or loved one, planning for their welfare should include a medical alert system, for its ability to improve how quickly and efficiently they can communicate with emergency services, and obtain the necessary aid.
Those With Heart Conditions
“One in Four deaths in America are the result of heart disease”
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. Heart attacks, also called a myocardial infarction, occur when part of the heart muscle doesn't receive enough blood flow. The more time passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart muscle. Risk factors include a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption, and an overall unhealthy lifestyle.
Another heart condition that is also characterized by its sudden onset and high fatality rate is atrial fibrillation (AFib), or an irregular heartbeat, which causes uneven blood flow from the atria to the lower chambers of the heart. Though this mainly affects people over the age of 65, people with high blood pressure, European ancestry, kidney disease, history of heart disease, and diabetes are at greater risk. Other factors include obesity, heavy alcohol use, and hyperthyroidism. The death rate from AFib as the primary or a contributing cause of death has been rising for more than two decades.
These two conditions are silent killers, that can swoop in rapidly and even pass under the radar. A medical alert system can benefit both people at risk or who have already suffered through one or the other, by providing a fast way to get the crucial help which can make the difference between life and death.
People at Risk of Falling
“Falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide.”
While data suggests that falls resulting in injuries are more common in seniors, there are still many conditions and situations which can lead to an event where a person of any age might find themselves partially disabled, with their ability to get help severely compromised. Neurological conditions, a history of head trauma, past strokes, heart conditions, and weakened bones all increase an individual’s risk for a fall. Not only do falls cause tissue injuries, but complications from those injuries can be catastrophic and life threatening as well.
People Living with Reduced Mobility
Many people are restricted in their physical ability to respond to a critical event. Decreased motor capacity resulting from paralysis, neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS), prior strokes or heart attacks, or even amputations, can make moving about during one’s daily life much more challenging. In an emergency situation, where time is of the essence, people with reduced mobility could find it even more difficult to get the help their lives may depend on.
People With Disabilities, of Any Age
“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.
People with Communication Barriers
"According to the 2011 Census, a reported 60 million people living in the United States speak English as a second language in their homes."
Almost everyone has, at some time, experienced the frustration of being unable to communicate clearly with the person they are speaking with. For some, however, the communication barrier can seriously impact their ability to express themselves to others. Whether it’s because they suffer from brain damage as a result of a stroke or injury, have a nervous system disease like Parkinson’s, developmental disabilities like autism, or just don’t speak English, people with communication barriers often find themselves frustrated and misunderstood.
Medical alert companies keep profiles on their customers, which include any medical conditions or limitations, and some companies offer support in numerous languages. Medical alert operators will be able to see what limitations the caller faces before their first interaction and will be better prepared to work with the caller to address the emergency promptly.
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.
Non-Medical Emergency Situations
Medical alert systems not only provide an immediate resource during a medical incident, they can also offer additional protection in the case of an unforeseen emergency or critical situation. Events such as fire, home invasion, and domestic accidents can happen without warning. During a time of crisis, it may not be possible to access or communicate with a phone in a safe, secure manner.
It may not be time for your child to be given a cell-phone, but that doesn’t mean that they need to be without the ability to communicate in an emergency. Many medical alert systems have remote capabilities with GPS tracking, providing protection for your child while walking to the bus stop or playing at the park with friends. Additionally, mobile GPS medical alerts can help guide your child home if they get lost. All they have to do is push the button and speak to the call center representative, who can then contact you and help you reconnect with your child.
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.
Independently of their age, people of all backgrounds and conditions can benefit from immediate access to emergency care. With a medical alert system, the ability to contact emergency resources in a time of crisis can be simple and effective. Whether it’s for yourself, or to help protect an at-risk loved one, a medical alert system can provide peace of mind and the confidence that help is only a button press away, no matter if you’re at home or on the go. If you are the primary caregiver for someone, or think you might benefit yourself, take a look at our curated list of medical alert systems. Depending on your situation, you might find a package that makes everyone’s life easier.