Senior Alert Systems - The Most Important Questions to Ask

Greg PowelApr 6, 2014

As our parents, grandparents, and other beloved elders age, we're often as resistant as they are to face the reality of their declining independence. The vast majority of consumers, perhaps unaware of just how sobering an accident can be, only purchase medical alerts after a first fall. Don't wait until an emergency to acknowledge the risks faced by seniors with limited mobility. Remember that what might be a simple sprain for a younger person could be a life-threatening situation for our older loved ones.

Medical alert systems are designed to help the most vulnerable members of our population deal with medical emergencies. They provide families with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their elders will be able to call for help and have someone on the other end of the line to assist them in any situation. Alert systems also allow seniors a greater degree of independence without compromising their health. If you’re considering a medical alert system for your family member or loved one, use the following recommendations as a guide to help you choose a product that meets their needs.

"For those of us with elderly parents, medical alerts ensure our loved
ones always have access to help should they ever need it."
- Paige Coho, Medical Guardian

The majority of consumers looking for medical alert systems are shopping for a senior in their life. Before buying one, put yourself in the shoes of the person that will be using the system and consider their possible limitations.

Is the senior you are shopping for blind or visually impaired?

If the senior is blind or visually impaired, look for a base unit with easily distinguishable buttons. That could mean making sure the base unit of the system you’re looking to purchase has different sized buttons or textures. Also, consider whether a device with integrated fall detection sensors could be a better fit.

Does the senior have any physical limitations?

Consider the physical limitations of the senior before opting for any alert system. A person who only has use of one hand, for example, may find a pendant alert button easier to press than a wristband button. Or if the user has arthritis, a device with a soft-touch help button may be the best choice.

Is keeping track of the senior important? Does the senior tend to roam around without notifying anyone?

If the senior shows signs of early onset dementia or Alzheimer's or is just plain forgetful, a GPS unit could help you locate them if they wander off. If he or she has trouble getting home or there is an emergency, help will be a push of a button away, no matter where they are.

Does the senior speak a language other than English?

If your senior speaks a language other than English, know there are many companies with multilingual operators or interpreters to help overcome possible language barriers. However, to minimize linguistic or cultural obstacles and ensure assistance is prompt and efficient, the monitoring center should not be outsourced but located within the United States.

Falls and accidents can happen anywhere at any time. Make sure that when you select a medical alert system, you understand the activities, routines, and home environment of the senior who will use it.

How big is the senior’s home?

Consider the size of the senior’s home and make sure the system you select provides coverage for the entire the property. Just because they don’t use every room in the house doesn’t mean they won’t need coverage there, which could be especially true if the room in question is a storage space or basement.

Does the senior like to spend time outside or in the garden? How far from the house is the mailbox?

For seniors who spend time outside, it’s important to ensure sure the yard and mailbox are within the range of the base unit. Slick sidewalks or back injuries from gardening are legitimate concerns. That could mean purchasing a mobile system or just repositioning the base unit to allow for better coverage outside.

Is the senior still mobile and active?

For seniors with active lifestyles, a mobile or GPS unit may be the best option. Mobile alert systems allow more freedom and offer additional protection for those who are not yet ready to give up outdoor activities or require treatment for which they have to travel.

A Few Reminders About Monitoring Services

Monitoring Centers should operate 24/7. Accidents don’t just happen during business hours, so picking a company that works around the clock is vital. Also, make sure the Monitoring Call Center is certified by Underwriter’s Laboratory, has a 5-Diamond rating from the Central Station Alarm Association, or bears an ETL Listed Mark. These accreditations are given to companies that demonstrate the highest level of service within the Medical Alert Industry.

Pick a company that employs trained professional operators or certified emergency dispatchers. When your loved one calls for help, you want to be confident the person on the other end of the line will be able to provide the level of care they need. Operators should go through extensive training to learn to triage calls, walk someone who is scared and alone through an emergency situation, and patiently address any other problem that is called in. We suggest looking into companies who require their operators to undergo Medical Dispatch training just like 911 operators.

While it may be difficult to accept a family member or loved one is not as self-sufficient as they used to be, it's important to look objectively at the situation and assess their unique needs when shopping for a medical alert system. After all, by getting a medical alarm, you are providing them an opportunity to live a safe, active, and independent lifestyle, which may not have been an option otherwise.