What Is A Medical Alert System?

What is a Medical Alert System?We do so many articles, posts, and reviews of the latest medical alert systems that we thought we’d take a step backwards and cover the basics.  Many people don’t even understand what a medical alert system is, or what they’re designed for.  So let’s cover this in a brief Q&A session.

What Is A Medical Alert System?

A medical alert system is a combination of hardware and software (usually in the form of a pendant button) that sends a signal to emergency personnel when attention is required.  Medical alert systems, also known as personal emergency response systems (PERS) are most commonly worn by the elderly or disabled individuals who may need to summon emergency personnel following a fall or other life threatening occurrence

What Do Medical Alert Systems Look Like?

What is a medical alert systemHere’s a typical combination of a pendant button (usually worn around the neck) and a corresponding base station (which communicates with the pendant).  After the pendant button is pushed it sends a signal to the base station.  When the base station receives the emergency signal from the pendant, it calls a pre-programmed number (usually a call-center) where emergency responders/operators are standing by to assess the situation.  After receiving an emergency call, the operators in the call center usually call-out to the person in distress over the base station’s loud speaker. The base station also has a microphone inside that detects a response from within the home (if the person in distress can speak).  The call center operator then sends emergency personnel if required, or calls a family member, or a neighbor depending on the situation.

Are There Different Shapes & Sizes?

Yes, medical alert systems come in all shapes and sizes.  There are traditional pendant style medical alert systems, speakerphone medical alert systems, cellular medical alert systems (for the more mobile), activity tracker type systems, and combination phone/medical alert systems (like the Jitterbug).  See above for a few of the different types out there.

How Do I Buy A Medical Alert?

For many, it’s hard to know where to start.  We’ve published a lot of helpful articles here on The Senior List® to help guide you along the way. Here are 3 good rules to follow as you go down this path.  First, after doing some research based on your individual needs, narrow down your choices to a top 3 list.  Second, don’t make these mistakes when purchasing a medical alert system, we see these a lot.  Third, make sure you ask these questions when speaking to each of your top 3 medical alert providers.

Finally, if you didn’t jump to any of the aforementioned posts, remember this: Do not sign a long-term contract that doesn’t allow you to exit the agreement with little or no penalty.  You must understand the termination provisions explicitly (if nothing else) so you’re not stuck paying a monthly bill when you no longer need the service, or if you’ve chosen the wrong medical alert provider.  If you want to short list, here is a recent recommended list of medical alert providers, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow all of the rules I mentioned above.

Do you have any advice for somebody that’s just getting started? Let us know in the comment below!

Finding The Right Medical Alert System

medical alert systemsFinding the right medical alert system can be tough.  It requires time, patience and a good deal of research.  Many of you come to The Senior List® to find answers to your medical alert system questions, and we LOVE being a part of that experience.  Many times we’re asked to recommend a “one size fits all” medical alert system, but we really try to shy away from that practice.

We prefer to offer several quality medical alert providers that we know can do the job.  By giving the consumer a short-list, they can then begin to research the right fit AND form for themselves (or their loved one).  It would be easy to tell you that we love GreatCall, Philips, Bay Alarm Medical, and anything from Costco (and we do) but the right medical alert system for one may NOT be the right medical alert system for another!

Here’s a common question from one of our community members here at TheSeniorList.com.  The question (a good one) from Russ is:

“Which ones do you recommend I look at? I know Life Alert has a 36 month (3 year) contract which surprises me. Why does it require that? Questionable. Expensive also at $70 a month for the mobile plan. But is it the best one (forget pricing)?”

Finding the right Medical Alert System

The answer is not an easy one with limited information, but here’s my attempt:

Russ, It really depends on your needs which is hard to determine in a quick comment but I’ll try. If all you need is a functioning medical alert system (small pendant) for in-home use we like both Philips Lifeline and Bay Alarm. If you don’t care about size of the wearable look at Costco’s MediPendant or the GreatCall Splash. If you need a mobile alert system (cellular) there are some other interesting options and newer alert systems to look at.

Why don’t you try our Medical Alert System Buyers Guide? – Hope that helps, there are a lot of really great choices out there. We always recommend that you DO NOT sign a long-term agreement. If you do, make sure you have an out clause that allows you to leave without penalty (or minimal penalty). The reason we offer a variety of recommended options for consumers is that we want people to do their homework on these items. Each persons needs are unique, so you need to ask medical alert providers good questions to narrow down the options that are right for you. – Amie, The Senior List

Bay Alarm Medical Alert ReviewsWe’ll continue to review the latest medical alert systems, and provide practical information to make your decisions easier (and more informed).  Remember after narrowing down your choices (find 3 you’re comfortable with), it’s time to really dig-in.  Look around The Senior List and other sites for ratings and/or reviews.  Speak to the customer service representatives at each provider and as a few good questions, if they’re no good on the phone you might want reconsider them as a top choice.

What recommendations do you have for somebody researching medical alert systems for the first time? Tell us in the comments below!

10% Of Americans Aren’t Saving For Retirement

saving for retirementBankrate.com has just released alarming survey data suggesting that 10% of Americans aren’t saving for retirement.  As if 10% wasn’t alarming enough (in an improving economy), the number is growing.

The national telephone survey, which includes a number of personal finance questions, asked how much people were contributing this year compared with last year. Among those who took the survey, 10% said they “did not contribute this year or last year.” That’s the highest percentage since Bankrate started asking the question in 2011. – Janna Herron, Bankrate.com, 8/18/15

Saving For Retirement – Bright Spots

Bankrate.com says there some bright spots shining on those that were saving for retirement:

  • 19% are saving more in their retirement savings accounts when compared with last year.
  • 14% are saving less than they were a year ago. That’s an improvement from 2011, when 29% reported saving less.
  • More than half are saving the same amount.

Retirement Mistakes To Avoid

There are mistakes to avoid when planning for retirement.  3 of the biggest mistakes are: 1. Not saving at all (less than 1 in 5 save anything at all on a monthly basis).  2. Not fully funding your 401K (33 percent of employees don’t participate in a 401k program).  3. Accepting high risk investments in the stock market (nearing retirement means you should be less risk tolerant).

One Retirement Truth

The primary piece of advice you’ll hear from most retirement experts is that you need to save early, and save often.  Using compound interest to your advantage, your money can grow exponentially, with minimal risk (if played properly).  Gary Foreman over at US News & World Report offers this insightful tidbit regarding compound interest:  “Time is on your side. The longer money compounds, the faster it grows. Money growing at 6 percent per year will double in about 12 years, but it will be worth four times as much in 24 years.”

The bottom line is that retirement maybe a far off fantasy for some of us, but for those of us that have a plan, our golden years just might be golden!

89 Year Old Relives Cheerleader Days

89 year old cheerleader

courtesy: WBTV News

89 year old Pauline Heafner was a cheerleader at Belmont High School (Belmont, NC) back in 1943.  They were some of the happiest days that she can recall given her dementia diagnosis of late. As  WBTV’s Kristen Hampton reports –  “The best memories of your life are sometimes the oldest ones.  For some people, those are the only memories left.”

In an act of absolute kindness, staff members at Abernethy Laurels asked the cheerleading squad at South Point High School to come visit the residents, and to do a few cheers.  The girls were especially ready for Pauline…

The whole squad of girls brought special pom-poms for Pauline and the staff made her a uniform complete with a huge “B” on the front just like the old days. Pauline gave the girls some good advice on keeping the crowds enthused and even let them hear some of her old cheers. – Kristen Hampton, WBTV

89 Year Old Relives Cheerleader Days

A good life is about give-and-take, but when you have dementia there’s a great deal of taking.  Only a week later, Pauline’s recall of the recent visit down memory lane is no more.  Shaylyn Ladd, PR Director for the retirement community told WBTV “Anytime with dementia it’s typically their short-term memory that goes first”.  That’s the bitter cruelness of dementia, it robs us of one of our most precious resources, our memories.

5 Rules For Marriage After 50

5 Rules for marriage after 50

Image courtesy: twitter.com/ClarkHoward

Melissa King is a writer over at one of our favorite money-saving sites; ClarkHoward.com.  She recently published a nice list of tips for those that plan on marrying later in life.  Her list entitled “5 things you need to know when marrying after 50” includes some very important considerations that will save you pain and heart ache (literally and figuratively) after you tie the knot.

Of course it’s never too late to find the love of your life… Just ask Pennsylvania resident Betty Jane Allshouse, who got married for the first time at the ripe young age of 88!  For Ms. Allshouse it was love at first sight after sitting next to Walter Lowman (78) at dinner one night.  The rest is history!

5 Rules for Marriage After 50

1.  Be open and honest about your financial past

People who are older than 50 have less time to make repairs and plan ahead for possible retirement. For that reason, it’s not fair to keep secrets from your spouse about poor credit or unpaid debts. – ClarkHoward.com

2.  Understand your credit scores

If either individual in the relationship has a drastically lower credit score than the other, it may not always be best to apply for loans jointly as this can result in higher interest rates. – ClarkHoward.com

3.  Research your local spousal benefits under Social Security

If the recipient remarries, he or she will no longer be able to collect Social Security from their ex-spouse’s work record. – ClarkHoward.com

4.  Consult an estate planner

These experienced professionals can provide state specific suggestions for establishing trust accounts and designating beneficiaries, as well as help couples to determine the most beneficial ways to handle filing their taxes and managing their finances. – ClarkHoward.com

5.  Discuss your healthcare wishes

It is absolutely imperative that you discuss your health care wishes with your loved ones, including your children. – ClarkHoward.com

Visit the fine folks at ClarkHoward.com for more on this (and other) important money topics!  Do you have any other advice for marriage after 50?  Let us know in the comments below!

Medical Alert Systems At Costco

You may or may not be aware that Costco carries medical alert systems.  Costco used to carry just one – The MediPendant, which is an adequate (traditional) medical alert system that offered good value (due to the Costco offering).  Well flash forward to today, and you’ll notice that Costco now carries 2 medical alert brands; The MediPendant and the Connect America MobileAlert.costco logo

Connect America is a company that has been working hard to build back it’s reputation in the medical alert arena.  In the past, you didn’t have to look far to find a rash of critical reviews of their medical alert products/services.  Even on our site, we noticed quite a few less-than-satisfied-customers of Connect America.

Recently however, the company assigned a customer service representative to monitor complaints on The Senior List so they could rectify them.  You can see the interaction here.  This means a lot to us, and we’re happy to be a change agent whereby consumers can feel good about the service providers they trust to take care of them (long-term).  If we continue to see Connect America “connect” with customers to provide exemplary service, they might make our list of recommended medical alert providers in the future!

Here are the medical alert systems at Costco today

The Costco MediPendant Alert System

Costco MediPendant ReviewsThe Costco MediPendant Alert System (cost is $109.99) also includes 6 months of service (call center monitoring) which saves the user around $120-$150 depending on contract term.  Here’s what you can expect in the box when it arrives at your door:Medical Alert Systems at Costco

  • Voice speakerphone pendant
  • Small base station (to hold the pendant when you are not wearing it
  • Easy to follow 10-step set-up guide/instrucciones en espanol
  • 1 battery installed (lasts 2 years)
  • Belt, neck, and arm band attachments
  • 1 phone connection kit
  • 1 power supply
  • Lifetime replacement warranty for the pendant to the original user
  • Additional ‘spare’ battery for the pendant
  • Battery replacement tool
  • Lockbox – so medical personnel/family/friends can enter your home if you cannot get to the door

The MobileAlert from Connect America

Costco sells Medical Alert SystemsThe MobileAlert from Connect America (cost is $139.99) provides 2 options.  One is the traditional medical alert system (like the MediPendant above) and the other is the MobileAlert with fall detection (cost is $129.99 with $20 off coupon).  The medical alert with fall detection will alert when a person has fallen, and cannot depress the pendant button.  Both products include 6 months of service, which can provide some savings over the life of the service contract.  Here’s what you can expect in the box when the traditional unit arrives at your door:MobileAlert Medical Alert Systems at Costco

  • Speakerphone Unit
  • Neck Pendant
  • Wrist Pendant
  • Charging Cradle
  • Emergency Lockbox

It goes beyond saying that you should do your research before taking the plunge into the medical alert world.  Here are some things you should know BEFORE buying a medical alert system, and here are some of our recommended suppliers.  We’re always looking for new blood in this arena, with a keen eye out for high-quality service and innovative products that make a difference.

A few tips for the first-time buyer:

  1. Make sure you take the time to make a good decision – don’t rush it.
  2. Make sure you understand the “fine print”.
  3. Don’t sign long-term agreements that you cannot cancel at any time.

Finally make sure you read: Top 10 questions to ask before buying a medical alert system.

Driverless Cars Could Provide Independence Down The Road

Google's Driverless Cars

photo credit: Time Inc.

Skeptical that driverless cars will become a reality?  Don’t be.  This actually looks like the wave of the future.  The question of course is, just who’s future are we talking about?  Ours or our children’s?  While I’m guessing we still may be 10-20 years away from total independence (from the steering wheel), there are things happening today that are making this a reality for tomorrow.

Driverless Cars

photo credit: Time Inc.

I was very skeptical until I saw the below video describing the technology embedded in these driverless cars.  Until you understand what the “driving forces” are behind this idea, you can’t fully appreciate how close we are to the driverless-car-reality.

As for how Google’s driverless car works, it’s a mixture of laser sensors, radar, cameras and GPS – Doug Aamoth, TIME tech editor

Driverless Car Technology

What does this mean for you?  Well for starters, about the time our kids take the keys away there may be an entire fleet of these driverless cars, patrolling the city just waiting for a “hail” from your smart phone.  Think Uber without drivers.  Think smart taxi’s.  In terms of modern delivery;  Think driverless deliveries of your medications, groceries, or take-out!

So all this imagery is being captured, and all this data is being collected and that’s great… But it means nothing without sophisticated software top make sense of it all.  That’s where you’re going to start to see differentiation amongst people like Google, Ford, and Audi and all the different car companies. – Doug Aamoth, TIME tech editor

We’re entering a whole new era of automation – On land, in the air, and perhaps at sea as well.  Driverless cars have great implications for aging individuals who are less mobile, or unable to drive today.  But it doesn’t stop there. This new era of (tiny) automated driverless cars is the beginning of something big… Really big.

Scooters For Seniors: Does Medicare Pay For My Scooter?

Scooters for SeniorsWhere did all the advertisements for scooters go?  New rules have made it harder and harder for Medicare to cover scooters for seniors.  It wasn’t so long ago that a prominent “scooter store” got itself in a pickle for pushing doctors to write prescriptions for Medicare furnished scooters (whether necessary or not).  Scrutiny surrounding The Scooter Store case has led to tighter restrictions on Medicare covered scooters, making eligibility for these scooters a complicated issue to wade through.

Here’s CBS News discussing The Scooter Store’s advertisements which targeted seniors all over the country:

Some members of Congress say the ads lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary spending by Medicare, which is only supposed to pay for scooters as a medical necessity when seniors are unable to use a cane, walker or regular wheelchair. According to congressional testimony, Medicare accounted for about 75 percent of The SCOOTER Store’s revenue. – CBS News

The Medicare spending issues surrounding scooters and other durable medical equipment (DME) led to tighter restrictions on where you can purchase scooters for seniors, who is eligible for Medicare reimbursement, and the steps you need to take in order to be in compliance with Medicare Part B (medical insurance) rules.  Let’s dig into the details…

Who is eligible for a Scooter covered by Medicare?

Medicare.gov says that all people who meet criteria with Medicare Part B are covered for scooters (which they define as “manual wheelchairs & power mobility devices”).

What steps do I need to take?

Keep these facts in mind as you consider the steps you need to take when considering a scooter for mobility;

  • Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers power-operated vehicles (scooters) and manual wheelchairs as durable medical equipment (DME) that your doctor prescribes for use in your home.
  • You must have a face-to-face examination and a written prescription from a doctor or other treating provider before Medicare helps pay for a power wheelchair.
  • Power wheelchairs are covered only when they’re medically necessary.

Where can I purchase a scooter?

You can purchase a scooter anywhere you wish if you’re paying out of pocket.  You can find them online (new and used) or you can visit your local DME supplier in town.  If you’re planning on some help from Medicare however, you need to visit an enrolled DME supplier that accepts the assignment cost from the federal government.  Here’s more:

Medicare will only cover your DME if your doctors and DME suppliers are enrolled in Medicare. Doctors and suppliers have to meet strict standards to enroll and stay enrolled in Medicare. If your doctors or suppliers aren’t enrolled, Medicare won’t pay the claims submitted by them. It’s also important to ask your suppliers if they participate in Medicare before you get DME. If suppliers are participating suppliers, they must accept assignment. If suppliers are enrolled in Medicare but aren’t “participating,” they may choose not to accept assignment. If suppliers don’t accept assignment, there’s no limit on the amount they can charge you. – Medicare.gov

How much will it cost me?

If your DME provider accepts the Medicare assignment costs, you’ll be paying 20% of the Medicare-approved amount, and then the Part B deductible applies. Medicare.gov says, “depending on the type of equipment, you may need to rent the equipment, you may need to buy the equipment, or you may be able to choose whether to rent or buy the equipment.”  After you’ve visited your (Medicare enrolled) doctor, and he/she has written you a prescription for a scooter, you can obtain details from a (Medicare enrolled) DME provider, and they can share options with you.  General prices for a decent (new) scooter will range from $750-$2,000.

The bottom line

Medicare is making it more difficult for folks who want help purchasing a scooter today.  One of our community members “Dennis” who owns Towson Medical Equipment Company has this to say about Medicare reimbursement for scooters; “Medicare rarely pays for senior scooters. We submit claims all the time and they always deny them. You will end up paying out of pocket for a senior scooter.”  So the best thing you can do today if you feel you’re eligible for Medicare assistance is to follow the new strict guidelines and work with a sanctioned DME provider in your local community.

If you have tips to share, or would like to comment on this issue (or other mobility issues) give us a shout in the comments below.  If you’re considering buying a scooter, make sure you read The Top 10 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Scooters for Seniors.

McDonald’s Senior Discounts

McDonald's Senior DiscountsAs many of you know, The Senior List publishes the biggest list of senior discounts on the web.  We receive a lot of local feedback regarding McDonald’s restaurants and thought we’d inquire as to a national (corporate) discount program for seniors and veterans.  After repeated requests, we recently heard back from McDonald’s USA about the availability of corporate wide McDonald’s senior discounts AND discounts for veterans.  We received the following reply:

McDonald’s on Senior Discounts

Thank you for taking the time to contact McDonald’s. We truly appreciate customer feedback and welcome the opportunity to share some information with you.

More than 90 percent of McDonald’s U.S. restaurants are owned and operated by independent businesspeople. As independent owners, McDonald’s franchisees have the authority to make certain operating decisions as they relate to their McDonald’s restaurant operations. We recommend inquiring directly with your local McDonald’s in regards to any senior discounts or Veterans’s discounts they may offer. –

Again, thank you for contacting McDonald’s. We hope to have the opportunity of serving you again soon under the Golden Arches – Caroline, McDonald’s Customer Response Center

As you can imagine McDonald’s response is very safe (and vague) for a reason.  McDonald’s wants to give it’s owner owned franchises the opportunity to make local discounting decisions independently of the mother ship.  I certainly understand this, and believe that there are many local franchise owners that are offering a variety of senior discounts like a “senior coffee” (special price for those 55+) across the country.  Remember, it never hurts to ask, so we recommend you do so!

Please provide some feedback as you talk to you local franchises! Leave us a brief message in the comments section below :)

Can Technology Keep Our Brains Healthy?

technology and seniorsSenior List co-founder Amie Clark was interviewed recently by the fine folks at NewRetirement.com.  If you’re unfamiliar with them, NewRetirement is a group “dedicated to helping people concerned about retirement find the information they need to create a secure retirement plan”.  They wanted to discuss technology, and how it helps or hinders aging adults today.  Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

What are the most common concerns you’ve heard from seniors regarding technology?

Technology is moving at lightning speed, and I hear from boomers and seniors who say they don’t know where to start. In addition, our visitors report that it can be difficult to weed through the clutter and decide what options they want (and really need) when they are researching products. – Amie Clark, The Senior List

Do you think keeping up with the trends of something as fast paced as the tech industry can keep the mind young, healthy, and strong?

Absolutely. I think the key to keeping the mind healthy is to keep learning and questioning. Engaging with other people is also such an important piece of keeping the brain operating on all cylinders. – Amie Clark, The Senior List

You can find the entire interview below (click on the image)

Can Technology Keep Our Brains Healthy?

Keeping Up with Tech Can Keep the Mind Young: With Amie Clark of TheSeniorList.com