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Saturday November 27, 2021

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How to Choose a Medical Alert System

I am interested in getting my mom, who lives alone, a medical alert system. I would like to learn more about wearable options that will let her call for help if she falls or has a medical emergency. What can you tell me to help me choose one?

A good medical alert system is an effective and affordable tool that can help keep your mom safe and living in her own home longer. With all the different products and features available, choosing one can be challenging. Here are some tips that can help.

Three Key Questions

Medical alert systems, which have been around since the 1980s, provide a wearable help button – usually in the form of a neck pendant or wristband – that would put your mom in touch with a dispatcher who could summon emergency help or contact a friend or family member as needed.

To help you narrow down your options and choose a system that best fits your mom's needs, here are three key questions to consider.

1. Does your mom want a home-based or mobile system?

Medical alert systems were originally designed to work inside the home with a landline telephone, which is still an option. But since fewer and fewer households have landlines these days, most companies today also offer home-based systems that work over a cellular network. With these systems, pressing the wearable help button allows you to speak to a dispatcher through a base unit located in your home.

In addition, many companies offer mobile medical alert options. You can use these systems at home, but they will also allow you to call for help while the wearer is out and about.

Mobile alerts operate over cellular networks and incorporate GPS technology. These systems allow you to talk and listen to the operator directly through the pendant button. The GPS allows your location to be known in order for help to be sent.

If your mom does not leave the house very often, she may not need a mobile system. If she is still active, she may want added protection outside the home.

2. Should her system be monitored or not?

The best medical alert systems are monitored, meaning that the help button connects you with a trained operator at a 24/7 dispatching center.

You also have the option to choose a system that is not monitored. With these, when you press the help 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 do not get an answer from someone on your list.

3. Should you add a fall-detection feature?

Most medical alert companies offer the option of an automatic fall detection pendant for an additional fee of $10 to $15 per month. These pendants automatically contact the dispatch center in the event of a fall, just as they would if the wearer had pressed the call button.

Be aware that this technology is not fool-proof. In some cases, this feature may register something as a fall that is not. The alarm might go off if you drop it or momentarily lose your balance but do not actually land on the ground.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published February 12, 2021

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