Is The Apple Watch Ready For Prime Time?

google.glass  Is The Apple Watch Ready For Prime Time?We had a great question from one of our community members that spurred some additional dialog about the the future of medical alert systems, and whether the Apple Watch might be in that future.

Susan asks resident tech expert TimOnTech: I was thinking along the same lines, Tim, but you expressed it much better than I….I don’t even know what an accelerormeter is. I used to joke if Tiffany made an alert pendant necklace, older women would love wearing it. The Apple watch looks cool.

I was thinking it probably also has a gps built in. (Do you know?) If so, help could be on the way very quickly even if the person couldn’t speak.

Thanks for the information and forward-thinking. possibilities.

Why is the Apple Watch receiving criticism in it’s first week of existence?

Unfortunately the Apple Watch needs some time to grow. Here are a list of why we don’t think its ready for seniors (or most consumers for that matter).

1. It’s not waterproof (no not even the sports edition). It is not even recommended to be worn in the shower.  This (to me) translates into “this Apple Watch isn’t even water resistant yet”.  This is a deal breaker for most of the sports nuts out there that expect to wear their watch wherever they go (including the pool).

2. It’s tethered to the iPhone. Hopefully it will have it’s own communication ability down the road so you don’t have to take your phone with you all the time. So now you have 2 devices that do largely the same thing.  One small… The other one SUPER SMALL.  As soon as we can take one or the other (or both) at our discretion, Apple will have a complete game changer.  For now it’s just a game changer. (Which isn’t so bad is it?)

3. Battery life of the Apple Watch is being called into question. They say you get a day’s worth of charge, but I suppose that the real numbers will become evident when they start shipping the Apple Watch (next year some time).  Again, let’s get to the point where we only need to plug these wearable gadgets in a couple times a week.  I know the brilliant engineers out there can do this!

4. The watch face is awfully small. Now my eyes are pretty good, but I don’t like reading on my iPhone 5S let alone a tiny watch… My iPad is about as small as I like to read on… So for the most rudimentary of tasks (like depressing an emergency call button) this might be just fine.  Replying to a text with a smiley face?  Probably fine too… but doing much more on the watch itself is going to be a struggle for most aging adults.

To read Susan’s original question and comment string click here on our article entitled; “The Next Best Medical Alert System”

apple watch 178x300 Is The Apple Watch Ready For Prime Time?

Apple Watch like Google Glass nice to have… Not need to have (yet)

So in summary, for now it’s probably a nice to have… Down the road (a couple years down the road) it may turn into a need to have. One nice wearable comparable is the Google Glass product. Even thought it’s not widely available, it’s been met with only mild enthusiasm. It’s a nice wearable comparable because it’s also an extension of one’s cell phone except plastered to ones face.

What’s your take on these exciting new wearable devices? Are they ready for prime-time? Are they following the typical evolutionary path to legendary gadget status?  Let us know your thoughts below!

The Next Best Medical Alert System

apple watch 178x300 The Next Best Medical Alert SystemIf you tuned into the Apple Live event yesterday you heard a lot about the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, as well as Apple’s much anticipated wearable technology called the Apple Watch (nope it’s not called the iWatch).  The iPhones continue on their spectacular run of innovation including getting thinner, faster, stronger, and packed with new features like Apple Pay (think iWallet) and integrated health apps.  As you were watching the presentation I bet you weren’t thinking about the next best medical alert system! Well for good reason we were, and here are some thoughts on the future of this growing marketplace.

 

The Future of The Medical Alert System

As someone that follows the medical alert system industry closely, I can’t help but think that we might be seeing the future of medical alert systems before our very eyes.  The first thing I thought about when I saw the Apple Watch was that this is the first big innovation in medical alert systems we’ve seen in a long, long time.  How you ask?  Consider this: The Apple Watch already has build in sensors to tell you temperature, heart rate and a variety of other health related information.  There are already built in health apps that track daily activity which will be useful for family members to track how often their loved one’s are getting around.

iOS 8 Health App The Next Best Medical Alert System

This is the first big innovation in medical alert systems we’ve seen in a long, long time.

The Apple Watch has an internal gyroscope and an accelerometer which could lend itself to any myriad of inactivity or fall detections too.  Built in messaging could serve as useful reminders notifying the user when it’s time to take their medications, and how they should take them (with food, or not).  The possibilities are endless.

Right now the Apple Watch solution isn’t optimal  for a variety of reasons.  It’s new, it’s complex, it’s tethered to an iPhone, it may not be waterproof yet, etc.  The biggest reason this technology won’t be replacing the traditional medical alert system is that there aren’t many medical alert system replacement apps that are ready for prime time on the Apple Watch.  Here’s one industry observer that’s betting on a new simple medical alert application to be integrated into the Apple Watch for seniors.  In short order this could become the next best medical alert system on the market.  I think that in 5 years you’ll see some very useful apps come to market to address health needs that we haven’t yet dreamed of.  Should be a fun ride!

Costco MediPendant Reviews

Costco MediPendant Review 150x150 Costco MediPendant ReviewsOur readers alerted us to the fact that the Costco MediPendant Medical Alert System is gaining in popularity, and asked us to look into this medical alert device for seniors.  The Costco MediPendant is a medical alert system that works best with a traditional telephone line.  This unit is water resistant, and although the promotional material maintains it can be worn in the shower or bath, we’d refrain from wearing it in the bath tub.

Costco MediPendant Battery Life

One interesting feature of the Costco MediPendant is the battery life.  The MediPendant comes with an internal battery that last 1-3 years on a single charge (so says the company representative I spoke with today).  The Costco package actually provides an additional battery, so theoretically you or your loved one should be set for 2-6 years on battery life.  We always error on the conservative side so count on 1 year of battery life… But hey, since they give you an extra – 2 years isn’t all bad!

Costco MediPendant Reviews

Costco MediPendant Reviews are actually quite good across the spectrum.  Here is a solid breakdown.

costco medipendant reviews Costco MediPendant Reviews From Costco.com:     As of 9/3/14 there are 28 reviews with a total of 4.5 out of 5 stars

Amazon MediPendant Reviews Costco MediPendant ReviewsFrom Amazon.com:  As of 9/3/14 there are 6 reviews with a total of 4 out of 5 stars

The Senior List® likes the MediPendant Medical Alert System from Costco. The only challenges at this point are that the MediPendant is water resistant (vs waterproof) and the size of the device is a bit large. We understand that for the speakerphone type medical alert pendants, they’re all big and bulky. Keep your eye on this market. With nano technology and nano coatings becoming more prevalent in so many market spaces, we expect that medical devices like medical alert systems and hearing aids will continue to get smaller, less intrusive, and more intuitive.  If you like the speakerphone type medical alert systems, this looks like a good bargain.  We were also impressed with their customer service representatives.  We spoke to them extensively prior to writing this review.

Costco MediPendant Monthly Fee

The MediPendant from Costco comes with 6 months of free service.  That means 6 months worth of access to the call center operators (they answer the phone when you press the emergency button, and dispatch help).  This savings equates to around $162 dollars (assuming an average call center rate of $27 per month).  The representatives at MediPendant gave me their rate breakdown today, and told me there are NO long-term contracts that lock consumers into paying for the service when not in use.  There are however, rates that are based on service terms.  The MediPendant representative assured me that no matter what term a consumer chose, they could opt out at any time and receive a prorated rebate.  Here are their rates and terms:

  • Month to Month (must be requested) – $26.95 per month
  • 3 Month Service Plan – $24.95 per month
  • 6 Month Service Plan – $22.95 per month
  • 12 Month Service Plan – $19.95 per month

We recommend that you get the opt-out language (with rebate information) in writing before committing.  If you do, we see no reason not to go for the 12 month service plan.  It should be explicit in their Terms and Conditions documentation though.  If it’s not, request this information in writing.  If you’re new to the medical alert system industry, you’ll want to read our top 10 questions you should ask before buying a medical alert system.  It will save you some hassles down the road.

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More Medical Alert System Questions

eCare+Voice More Medical Alert System QuestionsKathy G. asked some great medical alert system questions after reading our list of top questions you should ask before buying a medical alert system.  I thought they were worthy of their own post, so we’ve copied her medical alert system questions right here (along with the answers).  As always, if you have further clarifications based on your own experience or wish to continue the conversation, please engage in our comments section below.  A rich dialog about medical alert systems can end up benefiting a great many families in need.  Special thanks to Kathy G., and here you go!

1. Is there a detailed diagram of how the medical alert system is connected? I don’t have a diagram, but here is a nice tutorial on the typical components of a traditional (land-line based) medical alert system, and how they work: http://www.medicalalertadvice.com/buyers-guide-how-sys-works.php. This is NOT an endorsement of this provider or their products, but they provide a nice example.

2. How does the signal travel from the button to the call center? For a land-line based medical alert system, the pendant uses a specific communication frequency to the base unit. The base unit then dials the medical alert provider’s call center. The call center usually attempts to communicate (via the base unit) with the user, and if there is no response they dispatch a predetermined responder (ambulance or family member). For a cellular based medical alert system the mobile unit contacts the call center directly, and they dispatch as described above. The base units for the cellular based medical alert devices usually act as charging stations.

3. What is a DSL Filter and where is it placed? (per wikipedia) “A DSL filter or microfilter is an analog low-pass filter installed between analog devices (such as telephones or analog modems) and a plain old telephone service (POTS) line, in order to prevent interference between such devices and a digital subscriber line (DSL) service operating on the same line.” These accessories are very common since nearly every cable/phone company has moved from analogue to digital services. I believe these accessories (if needed) are inserted into the line prior to entering your land-line plugin area. Here is a picture of a DSL filter.

4. What is the difference between power cord and signal cord? I’m not sure what signal cord is referring to, but it may simply refer to the medical alert system’s antennae. The power cord connects your base unit to the wall socket.

5. What does “range” refer to? The typical range of a traditional medical alert system is around 600-800 feet. This is a radius around the base unit, and depends on a number of factors including penetration through walls, signal interference (with other gadgets), etc. This range issue has led to the growing popularity of cellular based medical alert systems which have no range issues (other than the wireless signal from the carrier).

6. Does a doctor have to sign for a medical alert system? No.  A doctor does not have to sign anything. If your insurance provider covers this type of thing, you may need a doctor’s order, but this is a rare exception.

Medical Alert Scam Calls Recorded

After receiving several medical alert scam calls this week from fraudulent medical alert scam robo-callers, we decided to do some hunting around to capture audio from the call.  Perhaps this captured medical alert scam recording will help educate the public (including national/local agencies) to put an end to this madness.  These sickos are targeting seniors with an offer of a “personal medical alert system at no cost to you”.  The call goes on “Since you’ve already been referred by a medical professional, your package is ready to be shipped”.  The scam doesn’t end there… “By receiving the package today” the recording states, “you’re now eligible to receive $1000 dollars in grocery saving coupons that can be used for products you already buy and use”. This scam has been going on for over a year now.  Federal and state agencies need to get a better handle on these calls targeting aging adults, kids, and the unsuspecting public in general.  Our advice is to hang up immediately (do not press any key), note the number you received the call from, and notify the appropriate authorities.  Your notification should include the FCC complaint page, as well as the Do Not Call Registry.

Medical Alert Scam Call Recording

Ironically The Senior List received has received callsl from these medical alert fraudsters, the latest coming just this week.  The numbers that were captured through our caller ID was 212-660-5351 and the other number we captured was 516-435-7389.  The script went just as the recorded call noted, but one of the calls also added a 75% prescription discount card.  If you’re interested in what the FTC says about robo calls, see the video below. Have you received a robo call for a free medical alert system?  What did you do?  How do you feel about these kind of calls being directed into people’s homes?  Let us know in the comments section below.

Special thanks to John’s recorded SPAM calls for the original audio feed

Top 5 Features Of A Modern Medical Alert System

We’ve written extensively about medical alert systems here on The Senior List. We’ve done so in an attempt to educate the public on appropriateness of use, and to offer tips and advice on buying a medical alert system for your loved one (or yourself).

One of the things we haven’t focused on as much is what we think the perfect medical alert system consists of.  So with that as a backdrop, here is our wish list. Our top 5 features that would define the perfect (in-home) medical alert system:

The Best Medical Alert System: Top 5 Features

 

1.  The best medical alert system should be a small (discrete) waterproof form factor

I’m talking about a small pendant style medical alert system that doesn’t make you look like Flava Flave (of Public Enemy fame).  There should be options today on style, and there really aren’t many to choose from.  Our idea for best options include both the necklace style pendant alert button, as well as a small wristband type device.  Both should beflavor flav Top 5 Features Of A Modern Medical Alert System totally waterproof so they can be worn in the shower or the bathtub.  Not-so-fun-fact; Did you know that over 1 in 3 seniors fall every year, and according to to the National Institute on Aging, over 80 of those falls are in the bathroom.  This is why it’s so important for manufacturers to get this WATERPROOFING issue right now.  Most of the medical alert devices today are water resistant (not waterproof), leading many manufacturers to recommend that they not be worn in the bathtub or shower (at the very least not submerged).  This is a biggie folks, the best medical alert devices need to be waterproof.

2.  The best medical alert system providers should never ask you to sign a long term agreement

Our favorite providers out there have month-to-month options for families and they don’t gouge the customer for choosing this option.  Believe it or not, there are some medical alert system providers that have conned consumers into 3 year contract commitments, which is appalling.  Just sniff around The Senior List medical alert system articles and you’ll hear directly from consumers that got stuck… and aren’t happy!  Always, always make sure you’re signing up for a commitment that you are comfortable with, not something a sales person pushes you into signing.  In fact if you do get pressured like that, just walk away.  Tell them you’ll be sharing your story with us, and we’ll make sure to warn other consumers of nasty sales tactics.  Frankly, we’re tired of it.

3.  The best medical alert system should be comfortable and lightweight

One of the worst ttimex ironman Top 5 Features Of A Modern Medical Alert Systemhings that could happen after investing in life-saving technology like a medical alert system is that your loved one doesn’t wear it.  Our wish list includes something that looks fashionable or sporty, and isn’t bulky or hard edged.  If it’s as comfortable as my Timex Ironman watch band, it’s going to be worn all the time.  If it’s big, bulky and clunky like my Tissot dress watch… it’s only going to be worn for special occasions.  And that’s not good enough!  Many of the form factors (pendant or wrist style) all look alike today… but hey this is a wish list right?

4.  The best medical alert systems should have fall detection technology that works

We’ve heard from countless community members here on The Senior List that fall detection on the devices today stinks!  While we love and respect your feedback, we’re in the camp that believes it’s good… not great (yet).  Fall detection has been around for years in these devices.  A number of companies over the years have bit-the-big-one (read failed) trying to develop a fall detection device and stand on that leg alone (as a major differentiator).  Frankly, it’s tough to do for a huge number of reasons.  First, expectations of what fall detection devices should or shouldn’t do vary widely with both consumers and industry experts.  The algorithms that constitute what a fall is and what a fall isn’t are difficult to define and fine-tune.  Finally, we all fall a bit differently.  A fairly active adult may be doing exercises in the home and fall into the couch to catch a breather.  Is this a fall? Will this set off the device?  It’s a very tough thing to perfect.  But for our wish list, we’d like the option of fall detection that really works.

5.  The best medical alert systems should have communication options in the case of an emergency

What I mean is… Who do you want your PERS (personal emergency response system) to call if you depress the button?  Do you want this device to call a loved one?  Do you want it toOneCall speaker 150x150 Top 5 Features Of A Modern Medical Alert System ring a call center?  Do you want it to dial 911 directly?  These are all options of one or more of these medical alert systems.  We’d like to have the option to program this device to ring a family member AND a call center (in that order).  If it’s a minor emergency, I’d rather speak to a loved one.  If that loved one can’t be reached or they can’t reach me… It’s forwarded to the call center for possible dispatch.  Also, since this is a wish list we like the idea of a mini speaker phone built into our pendant or wristband.

So that’s it… Not to much to ask is it?  What did we miss?  What do you want to see on your ideal medical alert system?  Let us know in your comments below!

iPhone App Reviews: CareBeacon iPhone App

iPhone App Reviews: The CareBeacon Medical Alert

I recently tested the CareBeacon fall detection (and inactivity) app for iPhone.  The app functions like a mobile medical alert system and notifies loved ones of falls by utilizing the accelerometer  and GPS (global positioning systems) functions in the smart phone.  The app is free for the first 30 days and is available from $8.33 per month (if you sign up for the year) to $12.99 (on a month to month) after the initial trial.

The CareBeacon app is great for those who have an existing iPhone and who carry it with them at all times.  The app will work wherever the phone has a signal and is not confined to the home like many traditional personal emergency response systems.  The pre-determined friends and family will be notified if the user does not answer the “Are You Ok?” prompts after a period of inactivity or a fall is sensed.  The time to sense inactivity can be adjusted by the user, from one to 15 minutes.  If the phone senses a fall, it sends a text and/or voice messages with the users location.  The friends/family would then contact the user and emergency services if needed.

iPhone App Reviews | CareBeacon | Likes and Dislikes

What I liked:

  • Conceptually utilizing the mobile phone functionality for active adults (that just need a safety blanket) makes a great deal of sense
  • For those that carry their mobile phone all over the place, it’s always with you
  • Accelerometer should work as well as other mPERS (mobile personal emergency response system) or better, though phone’s location on the body could make a difference in sensitivity for the fall algorithm
  • Simple to use and simple to set up
  • Designate friends and family (to contact in case of emergency) as you wish
  • Price is right when comparing it to traditional or mobile medical alert system subscriptions

What I didn’t like:

  • You have to have an iPhone (no Android version as yet)
  • If you don’t have adequate service coverage (from Verizon, AT&T, Sprint) you don’t have a functioning app
  • Only calls friends and family no direct 911 calling (this isn’t so bad as long as someone answers)
  • 15 minute inactivity alarm started bugging me, CareBeacon may want to adjust this to allow for less frequent check-ins
  • Price is high IF you’re comparing it to other apps on the iPhone app store

CareBeacon 268x300 iPhone App Reviews: CareBeacon iPhone App

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Do Your Research Before Buying A Medical Alert System

OneCall speaker Do Your Research Before Buying A Medical Alert SystemWhen consumers are faced with purchasing a medical alert system for a family member, they are typically in crisis mode, and generally prone to making rash decisions.  Don’t fall into this oh-so-common trap.  The Senior List is full of horror stories about folks that are trapped into long-term contracts, or faced with equipment that won’t function properly.  Before buying a medical alert system, it’s important that you DO YOUR RESEARCH.    Don’t think you can just jump on a particular brand and make a quick decision.  You might get lucky, but I don’t like those odds for most folks (and certainly not for our readers).

4 things you need to know before buying a medial alert system:

  1. What medical alert system options are out there?
  2. How reliable is the medical alert system?
  3. Is it easy to install and use?
  4. How much does it cost?

Let’s tackle each of these topics together so that you have a (more) solid base of understanding, and can make more informed choices down the road.

What medical alert system options are out there?

There are a lot of options out there, but the 2 biggest considerations here are;  Whether you need a traditional in-home (uses a home phone line) alert system, or a mobile (cellular based) medical alert system.

The traditional in-home medical alert systems utilize the home phone line, and the pendant alert buttons work like old cordless phones.  When depressed they communicate with a base station, and that base station makes the call (in case of emergency).  Most of these traditional pendant type medical alert systems work well, and have adequate coverage for an average size home.  Many of the pendants can be worn in the shower, and most have good battery lives.  These traditional options usually cost a little bit less than their cellular based cousins.

The mobile (cellular) based medical alert systems seem to be getting a lot of attention lately.  These have the range of a typical cell phone, and typically targeted at the more mobile  users.  These options are a little more functional but also carry a little more of a price tag on them.

Our advice:  If your loved one is not mobile and almost always in the home environment, a traditional pendant style medical alert is just fine.  If they get out to walk, garden, shop, or spend time with friends away from home, go with a mobile option.

How reliable is the medical alert system?

Well reliability is an interesting question, because frankly these medical alert systems aren’t (or shouldn’t be) complex.  You should ask about battery life, water resistance, range, average response times, and read the reviews of medical alert systems that you’re considering.  Generally if you go with a reputable company, they’ll take care of you.  If you don’t do your research and get stuck with someone that won’t back-up their product, you’re in trouble.

Our advice:  Take this list of questions you should be asking each medical alert provider and use it accordingly. (Pass this list on to anyone that can use it.  We hate seeing folks get burned!)

Is the medical alert system easy to install and use?

You’d think these things would be intuitive enough to set-up, test, and use… but in some cases they’re just not.  Take a look at the Verizon SureResponse Medical Alert System Reviews.  A quick read of the reviews tells you all you need to know.  We recommend you check other sources in addition to The Senior List, but yikes… These guys need to get it together.  Stick with manufacturers that will work with you if something goes wrong.

Our advice:  Make sure you don’t sign a long-term commitment until you’re 100% comfortable doing so.  IF a month-to-month is a bit more expensive but you’re still unsure.  Take it for a test drive, and consider it insurance (against making a bad medical alert call).

How much does it cost?

Traditional pendant style medical alert systems are going to run you between $20-$40 dollars per month.  I wouldn’t be paying more than $29 per month if I had minimal needs.  For cellular based models be prepared to pay just a bit more than the in-home models. Be advised that GreatCall has a nice mobile option that starts at $19 per month.  You don’t need to spend a lot to get what you need.  You just need to do your research!

Our advice:  In the end make sure you follow our top 3 rules when considering medical alert systems:  Research in advance, ask a lot of questions, and don’t get stuck with a long-term contract that you can’t afford or don’t want!

Book Reviews: Plan Ahead: Tools for the Caregiver

planahead cover 200x300 150x150 Book Reviews: Plan Ahead: Tools for the CaregiverBook Reviews:

While there are many books for caregivers and senior care in general, few are able to distinguish themselves as part workbook, part resource and part guide.  The author, Walt Sonksen has done a nice job putting all three together in this easy-to-read caregiver workbook.  In this book, Walt shares life experiences, as well as those lessons learned  from the deaths of his own parents.  The book encompasses many aspects of family care…  Such as gathering personal information and wishes, transition planning, safety concerns, caregiving options, financial and legal issues, and community resources.

 This handbook is meant to be used before a crisis so the family and their designated caregivers can spend more quality time with their family member.

Plan Ahead: Tools for the Caregiver is a workbook that can be used and written in and is small enough to fit in a purse or tablet pouch.  This is a tool that you will use over time and will add to it as you go along the journey of caregiving. Some of the information is specific to Oregon and Washington, the author resides in the Northwest, however a reader who is resourceful will be able to access similar information for their own area.   The book is geared to the adult caregiver and is focused on senior care, but could apply to any caregiving situation (dependent children, etc…).  Throughout the book you will find checklists, tidbits, personal stories and encouragement.  Several well-respected leaders in the elder care field are also contributors to topics like senior living options, downsizing and moving, and mental health.

The book can be purchased on Amazon for a list price of $16.95.  Additional details and a downloadable Emergency Medical Packet are available at the website, www.planaheadtools.com.


 

Do I Need A Hearing Aid? What To Expect Before You Buy

If you’ve ever wondered; Do I need a hearing aid?  You just might… Professionals will tell you that hearing loss is such a gradual decline that folks with hearing issues are usually the last to know.  Many times they blame hearing issues on others, believing friends are mumbling, or perhaps they’re “quiet talkers” (to steal a Seinfeldism).

Do I need a hearing aid?

News reporter Emily Robinson interviews Heather Bennett, an audiologist with Advanced Hearing Centers for some great tips on what to expect if you think you might need a hearing aid.  First step (and most obvious on the list) is to get yourself tested.  Find a local qualified resource that can professionally diagnose your specific situation, and get some unbiased information on what options are available to you.  A number of audiologists sell hearing aids and will likely want to sell you one that they stock.

Buying a hearing aid from an audiologist isn’t a bad idea, but understand what you’re buying before you take the plunge.  Search online for equivalent hearing aid prices, and don’t be afraid to negotiate with sellers.  Did you know that Costco is now in the hearing aid business?  Bottom line is that consumers need to do their homework more than ever.  The old adage about making a good purchasing decision still holds true to this day;  Buy right… Cry once.