Lesson One: There’s no such thing as a perfect medical alert.
No system is perfect for everyone. The major factors you need to consider are
- Whether you want a “monitored” or “no-fee” system (there are pros and cons to each)
- Whether you need a home-based or mobile system
- Whether you can use a land line, Internet phone service, or cellular system
There will be tradeoffs. I’ll try to help you understand them so you can make a smart choice.
Jump to Lesson Two: How to evaluate your needs
Not to be mean, but if medical alerts were high school students, the best one in the class would be scraping by with a B- average.
So when you choose between medical alerts, you’re choosing between imperfect options.
But of course — to extend the high school metaphor — there are also a couple of bullies out there who are not only failing all their classes, but also stealing your lunch money.
The Problems with Medical Alerts…
are the same as the problems with so many other products aimed at seniors. Because our culture is afraid of old age, companies who serve seniors won’t invest in great design or top-quality manufacturing.
Also, the world has changed since medical alerts were first created, and the industry is struggling to keep up.
Remember back in the day of land lines when if you wanted to make a call you had to walk across the room to a phone and dial it? Seems like ancient history, but it wasn’t that long ago.
Medical alerts were originally invented to solve the particular problem of homebound people who couldn’t reach the phone after an emergency. The assumptions about the customer drove the design choices.
- They were homebound, so it didn’t matter if the system was ugly. No one but family would see them.
- They probably lived in a small house, so a speakerphone was good enough for communicating with the monitoring center.
- They were old and unsophisticated about technology, so it didn’t have to do much to impress them.
Probably none of the assumptions were ever really true, but they certainly aren’t today.
People are living longer, and often alone. But they’ve spent their lives in a world with computers and smartphones. People are more active for longer, but they’re also more worried about getting hurt and not being able to get help.
Medical alarm companies have been trying to keep up. They’ve released models that work on cellular networks, claiming they can protect you anywhere you go.
The fact remains that every single system I’ve seen has at least one glaring flaw.
Some flaws are in the system itself. Some are with the company that sells them.
Your job is to find a system that has the features you need and flaws you can live with.
I’ll help you.
Let’s quickly go over the basic features of medical alerts before continuing.
How Medical Alerts Work
Medical alerts are systems that allow you to call for help when you can’t make a phone call, either because you’ve fallen and can’t reach a phone or because you have an emergency in the bathroom or outside your house
Medical alarms and medical alerts are the exact same thing. I use the words interchangeably.
All medical alarms have two basic functions.
A) the panic button that you press if there is an emergency and
B) a system that communicates with the outside world, whether that is a monitoring center, 911, or some other way of getting help.
Most units have a separate panic button and base station. But most cellular medical alerts have both the panic button and the communicator are in the same unit.
Monitored vs non-monitored
– Most systems programmed to dial a monitoring center. Trained professionals answer the call and send help. They are able to hear you and send an ambulance if you’re hurt or the fire department if there is a fire.
– Others do not call a monitoring center. Instead, they call a pre-programmed list of family members or neighbors. Some just call 911. These are often called “no-fee alerts.”
Home based vs mobile
– One big distinction between systems are the ones that are “home based” and the ones that are “mobile” and work inside and away from home.
All kinds of phone lines
– You can find home-based systems that work with land lines, VOIP internet telephones, or that have their own dedicated cell phone inside them.
Now it’s time to click over to Lesson Two to understand how to evaluate your needs.