Medical emergencies don’t always occur at convenient times. You may fall during a stroll through the neighborhood, hit your head after a shower slip or suffer a stroke when you’re home alone. These emergencies are often easy to treat if you contact help immediately, but what if you’re unconscious or unable to reach the phone? That’s why many elderly adults rely on the around-the-clock protection of medical alert systems.
Unfortunately, choosing the right system isn’t easy. There are numerous options available, and many seniors don’t know which units are best or what features matter most. That’s why we compiled some essential tips from Consumer Reports for seniors considering a medical alert system. Before you invest in a home-based or mobile device, read the helpful tips below.
Don’t Rely on a Smartphone App
Some seniors consider using a smartphone app for medical alerts rather than a home-based or mobile system. While it’s true that medical alert apps can be helpful, they generally don’t function well as standalone systems. That’s because even the most tech-savvy seniors don’t carry their smartphones around with them 24/7, which means you aren’t protected at all times. You may leave your smartphone on the counter when you shower, or you may get up from the sofa not realizing your phone has fallen from your pocket.
Determine Whether You Need a Home or Mobile System
Choosing the right type of medical alert system is one of the most important steps of the buying process. Seniors who rarely leave the house or live in an assisted living community may do well with a home-based system, but mobile systems are best for active seniors. Mobile units often provide GPS tracking, so emergency workers can find subscribers no matter where an accident occurs.
Depending on which company you choose, you may also have the option to get a plan that includes both types of devices as well as a smartphone app. You can even request a plan with a caretaker portal, so your loved ones can help keep track of your activity levels and document injuries.
Consider a Monitored Device
If an emergency occurs, who do you call first? If you said 911 or medical professionals, consider a monitored device that connects you directly to emergency support when you need help. If you prefer to contact a spouse, family member or friend first, look for a device that isn’t monitored.
Monitored systems generally cost more than systems without monitoring because you must pay monthly subscription costs. If you choose an unmonitored device, you may only need to pay for the unit itself. Consider a medical alert system that connects you with loved ones as well as emergency dispatchers if you aren’t sure which option would be best for you. This is also a good option if you’re injured late at night when friends and family members are sleeping.
Choose Special Features Based on Your Needs
Medical alert systems range from basic devices with a single button to WiFi-compatible units with touch screens and apps. When you shop for a system, consider how comfortable you feel with technology and whether you can afford a device loaded with features. Look for a product with automatic fall detection if you’re worried that an illness or injury may leave you unable to notify help, as systems with this feature automatically contact emergency professionals.
You may also want a voice-activated wall button or a PIN-protected lockbox to go with your medical alert system. Consider a system with caregiver access if your loved wants want to track your progress via an app.
Review Return Policies Carefully
Medical alert systems often require a lengthy commitment, so you may end up choosing a plan that can last anywhere from a couple of months to a few years. This isn’t necessarily a problem if you select a medical alert system that you enjoy, but it can be an issue for budget-minded seniors who end up with a device that doesn’t meet their needs. Look for a medical alert system with a trial period or a generous return policy, as this gives you time to test drive your unit.
During the trial period, pay attention to the volume of your unit. Can you hear it at all times, or do you struggle to identify the sounds? You should also pay attention to how the device feels around your neck or wrist. Is it comfortable, or does it feel heavy and bulky? Can you get it wet in the shower or rain, or do you need to keep it covered? These are all important factors to consider before you fully commit to a medical alert system.
A medical alert system can save your life, but only if you know how to use it. Before you commit to a long-term plan, make sure you choose a lightweight device with a user-friendly design. If you try a medical alert system and dislike it, don’t get discouraged. There are many options out there, and with a little trial and error, you can find a dependable device tailored toward your unique needs.