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How to Choose a Medical Alert System
Medical Alert Systems, commonly referred to as Personal Emergency Response Systems or “PERS”, are often purchased for loved ones who may be ill or at risk of falls. These systems can provide increased independence for our loved ones, and peace of mind for those caring for them. With increased technology, there are many different systems to choose from and features to consider. When selecting a medical alert system, start by evaluating your loved ones needs and health situation—both current, and consider future needs as well. 

Important factors to look for when considering a PERS are:

What do you need the system to do?

  • Fall detection or prevention: Is your loved one at high-risk for falls? This may be an important feature to consider in the event that your loved one was unable to move or is unconscious from their fall. The system has the ability to detect a fall and can send paramedics if your loved one fails to respond.
  • Medical monitoring – including health vitals.
  • Call for help: Wearable devices with buttons to push for help may connect to a live person or directly to emergency services (fire department, police), or in non-emergent situations can connect to a designated family member.
  • GPS tracking: Does the device offer a GPS mobile feature that works when traveling away from home? This feature may come with a mobile 911 phone that places a call to EMS when your loved one is away.
  • Does the device work for a user’s specific needs?  For example, a stroke survivor may need a device that he/she can activate with one hand.

What type of equipment would work best?

  • Wearable options? Does the device come as a wristband and/or a neck pendant? Is the device comfortable enough and unobtrusive enough that your loved one will feel comfortable wearing it?
  • Are help buttons included? Help buttons can be mounted in each room around the house near the floor in the event that the user has fallen and is not wearing the device.
  • Is the device waterproof? Can it be worn in the shower?
  • Can family members connect with the device? Can you check in using a smartphone, tablet or computer?

Carefully consider the response and monitoring services*

  • Does the company offer multiple choices of who to contact? Help could range from emergency services to a friend or relative who lives nearby.
  • Can family members connect with the device? Can you check in using a smartphone, tablet or computer?
  • Response center. Average response time should be a matter of seconds, not minutes. Does the company operate its own response center or contract externally? Is the response center certified? How are the dispatchers or operators trained, and are they able to communicate in your loved one’s preferred language? Will your loved one be able to talk with a live person via their wearable device, or do they need to be close to the base unit to be heard?
  • Call routing. Can you designate how you want various types of alerts/calls (urgent, nonurgent, emergency) routed, including to a response center, family/friends or directly to emergency services (police, fire department)?
  • Customer service. Quality customer relations are key. There should be a live person you can call 24/7 with questions about the service. Other options may include email, live chat, an easy-to-navigate website and a comprehensive FAQ section.
  • Cybersecurity. How does the company protect private information and prevent hackers from accessing your system?

Get referrals

  • Ask around with family and friends to see if they have a service they have used and recommend.
  • Contact your local office of the aging or Alzheimer’s Association to ask if they have a list of companies offering medical alert devices locally.
  • Check with your senior community. If your loved one lives in a senior community they may offer an in-house or external medical alert system as part of their overall services. If they do, be sure to still do your due diligence to ensure that the service meets your loved one’s needs.
If you would like more information or to discuss emergency alert systems in greater detail please contact Happier At Home.
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