I recently heard from a woman whose mother’s medical alert system didn’t work properly when her mother had a fall.
Turns out the medical alert system had been in place for eight years without being used, and the batteries had never been changed.
So when she pressed the button, there wasn’t enough juice left to activate the alert system. Her mother ended up lying on the floor with a broken hip for many hours.
I don’t have all the details – for example, I don’t know whether this was a monitored alert system or a no-fee system, but here’s what I do know:
1. You have to test your system regularly
2. You have to change the batteries regularly
I recommend setting up a schedule for testing your alert system. If you’re the child of an elderly parent, this is as simple as setting up an automatic reminder in your online calendar. On the first of every month you get a beep or an email reminding you about the need for testing. You call your parent and have them activate their system to make sure it works.
Companies that monitor medical alerts may have their own policies about testing. Get in touch with your monitoring company to be sure you’re doing the test at a time of day when they generally don’t have as many true emergencies.
As for changing the batteries, some button units use rechargeable batteries and need to be plugged in to keep the charge strong. Others use disposable batteries. Whichever one you have, be sure to set up a routine for keeping them strong.
With standard batteries, consider changing them each time the clocks get turned ahead or back, just as you do with your smoke alarm batteries.
Or if you have long-life batteries, make a note of when they are supposed to expire (this might be a good question for the manufacturer, too) and set yourself a reminder in an online calendar that can email or text you when the time comes.
Don’t let a little thing like a dead battery prevent you from being safe!