There are three main choices when it comes to how the senior medical alert base station handles emergency situations.
It can call:
– a medical alert monitoring service
– a series of numbers you program into the unit
– the 911 emergency medical system
This is going to be one of the bigger and harder decisions you’ll need to make. A lot of it will depend on your budget and on the personality of the person who will be wearing the button.
Systems that call a medical alert monitoring service are the most expensive because there’s a monthly fee for the service. This is because there are real human beings at the other end of the phone line, and of course they need to be paid.
The other two kinds of medical alert systems don’t require an ongoing contract. This can mean big cost savings. So the price difference between these models really comes down to tradeoffs in the quality of the unit and the distance at which the transmitter works.
The systems that dial 911 do just that. If you get hurt, you use the unit to call for an ambulance or rescue personnel. You can’t use the unit if you need help but it’s not a medical emergency.
The units that dial a preset series of numbers can be programmed for any numbers you want. These can be family members, neighbors, or friends. (Honestly, these units make me a little nervous. I can imagine a lot of situations in which they wouldn’t work that well in a true emergency.)
One of the biggest things that keeps people from getting help when they need it is not wanting to bother other people. You know the feeling, right? You’re not feeling well but you’re not sure it’s really serious, so you don’t want to call in sick or go to the doctor just to learn that it’s nothing.
So you don’t want a system that the senior person won’t use because they don’t want to trouble anyone.
The biggest areas where this seems it would be a problem are with the 911 and multi-dial units. Here’s why: A lot of people are going to be reluctant to make the decision to call for an ambulance unless they feel like they’re in serious danger. But many times if they called a little earlier they would get care that could prevent serious injury or death. Sometimes those delays make the difference between a few more years of healthy life and a rapid decline.
The same can be true for a device that dials several numbers. If it’s 3am and a person isn’t feeling well, they’re probably going to feel reluctant to dial up to 5 different people and wake them up.
The advantage of having a special monitoring service on the other end is that you can always get a real person on the phone if you need help. And because you don’t know that person, and their job is to help you, you won’t feel reluctant to press your emergency button.
The only drawback of a monitored system is that some people don’t like for strangers to know anything about them. If that’s the case with the elderly person for whom you’re shopping for a medical alert system, have a talk with them to see if this is really a showstopper.