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 wearing clock 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 Ironmanhings 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 Pendant 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!

Product Review: CareBeacon iPhone App

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.

CareBeacon Review: 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

how CareBeacon works

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Rating: 3.7/5 (3 votes cast)

Do Your Research Before Buying A Medical Alert System

OneCall Speaker PendantWhen 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!

Flight Tracking Apps and Websites

Flight Tracking Apps and Websites (via Tales Told From The Road)

I’m sitting at home, thinking maybe it’s time to fly off somewhere on vacation. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I know that hundreds of planes are taking off and landing at local airports throughout the day and evening. But who’s up there…

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One Call Alert to Launch Portal Providing Information to Senior Caregivers

One Call Alert to Launch Portal Providing Information to Senior Caregivers (via PRWeb)

A leader in the senior care community, One Call Alert will provide republishing access to helpful tips, original articles, and other information relevant to the senior caregivers. 5 Tips for Seniors: How to Stop Home Repair Fraud We think this is an…

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Book Review: Plan Ahead: Tools for the Caregiver

plan ahead caregiver workbook for senior careWhile 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.

 

 

Medical Alert System Satisfaction Ratings

The Senior List surveyed medical alert system subscribers and found that customer satisfaction results are mixed (at best).  The survey which spanned late 2013 to February of 2014 illustrated how vulnerable medical alert providers are to competition in this space.  A full third of respondents noted that when their agreement (contract) was up, they were leaving their current provider.  This is in stark contrast to 18% of respondents that said they were very satisfied, and they would recommend their medical alert provider.  Key takeaway: There are some really good medical alert providers… and some to stay away from.

Medical Alert System Satisfation SurveyThe medical alert landscape is changing.  This industry is going digital and mobile.  An industry that once tethered users to within 600 feet of the home (base station), has grown wings.  What was once dubbed “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” has now morphed into “I’m going shopping, but just in case I’ll take my medical alert system along”.

A number of manufacturers now monitor their users via a cellular signal just like the phone in your pocket.  This allows family members a safety-net in case of emergencies.  Another nice feature of cellular based medical alert systems is that they have built in GPS tracking to locate users if needed.

If you’re interested in the good, the bad, and the ugly of medical alert systems make yourself familiar with the comments section while you browse through our product reviews.  Folks here aren’t afraid to speak up… Especially if they’re not happy. Keep this in mind when you’re taking in comments from any product review site however.  Folks expect providers to at least meet expectations, and when they don’t, there can be a backlash.

What’s interesting (and telling) is to see the response (or lack thereof) by providers after a misstep.  Quality medical alert providers are transparent, responsive and fair to their customers.  Stay away from the ones that are rigid, secretive and unresponsive.

Lesson learned:  Do your homework.  Ask the right questions.  Know your rights.  Read the fine print.

Top Must-Have Senior Friendly Gadgets

Modern technology has definitely helped us go through our lives with ease. But for our seniors, living alone can be tough and dangerous at times. With advancing age, some basic tasks require help from caregivers or loved ones. To help seniors keep or regain their independence while keeping an eye on safety, here are some devices that can help out. These gadgets are designed for the elderly, and will help them remain safe and secure.

Mobile Alert Systems

Commonly known as Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) help seniors live independently.  Some of these systems are tethered or attached to a phone line, and the range is limited to a person’s home. Thanks to technology, these systems are getting smaller and mobile. From pendants to wrist-worn devices, seniors can now move freely outside the home and remain in contact with . An example of this would be our previous featured Verizonwireless’ SureResponse Medical Alert System. It allows users to contact their caregivers or loved one via cellular technology. Other companies are also offering the same service and technologies for the elderly. Learn more about this device on our previous post.

GPS-enabled Footwear

By the year 2050, almost 15 million Americans will be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. To date, it’s the 5th leading cause of death for people aged 65 and above. With almost 300 dementia-stricken loved-ones wandering or getting lost each day, the GPS-enabled shoe was born. Developed by the GTX Corp and Aextrex Worldwide, this shoe has a built-in mini locator on its heel and counterweights on the other end for balance. The shoe was originally to be used to track missing children but is now targeted for adults with cognitive deficits.  Since shoes are one of the most familiar objects for daily use, patients exhibiting signs of dementia or cognitive disorders won’t reject them.

Courtesy of gtxcorporation

Senior-friendly Mobile Phones

Smartphones may the in-thing for the young but it can be a nightmare for the elderly. Although, they have smart features, seniors need basic and intuitive. Seniors dread being alone or isolated, and mobile phones can help them feel connected.  Phones like the Clarity mobile phone from Plantronics Inc. fit the bill.  It has a textured case which allows for an easier grip and is designed with four buttons: “Call”, “End Call”, and two buttons to navigate through the contacts list. Since most seniors aged 64 to 75 years old suffer from hearing loss, the phone has an amplifier, making it louder than regular mobile phones. These types of mobile phones can help seniors live independently, while giving loved ones peace of mind.

Electronic Pill Dispensers and other Assistive Devices

 

Helping seniors live independently can be challenging, especially when it comes to medications. Most seniors are required to take at least four medications per day. To help organize their daily dose of medicines, electronic pill dispensers are a must. Aside from dispensing pills, these devices can also remind them when they need to take their medicines. According to research conducted by the National Institute for Aging, using electronic medication reminders help seniors take their daily doses on time. Also, these assistive devices prevent mixing drugs that can result in adverse effects that may lead to death. Do your research on the best pill dispenser for your loved one, and find out what’s best for them.

These are four quality elder care technologies that are must-haves.  Although there are other gadgets and mobile apps that also help, we believe the equipment presented are necessary to keep our loved ones safe.  What other new senior-friendly technologies can you recommend?

5 Tips on Choosing A Medical Alert System Provider

OneCall Medical AlertThe folks at OneCall Medical Alert reached out to The Senior List on Twitter and asked us to share some information regarding one of our favorite topics.  That topic: “How to Choose A Personal Emergency Response System” (also known as a medical alert system).  They offer some good advice that’s worth sharing.  Weather you’re choosing a mobile medical alert system or a traditional (in-home) style medical alert system, you’ll want to make sure that the provider can answer the following questions (special thanks to the folks at OneCall):

Choosing the Right Medical Alert System

    1. Is the provider accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB)?  The BBB’s mission is “to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust.”  The BBB says they “see trust as a function of two primary factors – integrity and performance. Integrity includes respect, ethics and intent. Performance speaks to a business’s track record of delivering results in accordance with BBB standards and/or addressing customer concerns in a timely, satisfactory manner.”  That said, there are a whole lot of businesses that have high ratings on the BBB, and just like any directory site you can’t take it as the gospel.  You’ve go to look around at other reputable review sites like Angie’s List and (of course) The Senior List.
    2. Are you locked into a long-term contract?  We agree with the folks at OneCall.  Unless you absolutely trust the medical alert provider you decide to choose, don’t sign a long-term contract!  There are plenty of reputable providers out there that don’t push these silly contracts.  Companies like GreatCall, Philips Lifeline and OneCall are good examples of no-contract alert systems. (*Note that OneCall does require 3 months of prepaid service at activation.)
    3. Does the medical alert provider have multiple emergency call centers? This is probably a good question to ask, but more importantly how dependable is the call center? If you search around for medical alert system reviews, you’ll probably receive some feedback on this topic.  OneCall says that you should also “ask where their emergency call center is located, if they have more than one emergency call center, and if a contingency plan is in place in case a call center is shut down” (because of a storm or other natural disaster).  These are great questions!
    4. Is the system easy to set up and test?  You’ll want to be clear on how to set up the device in your home, AND how to test it (on a regular basis).  Medical alert systems are not doing you any good if they aren’t in good working order.  Further inquiries need to be made regarding maintenance (batteries need to be tested and/or replaced,coverage area needs to be tested and retested, etc.).
    5. Does the provider have flexible payment options?  Most top providers do have options (monthly, quarterly, annual) but regardless of your payment option, make sure you understand what the implications are if your loved one decides to leave the provider (for another), or is no longer in need of the medical alert system (perhaps they move into a care facility, or they pass away).

 

These are great questions to ask when evaluating a medical alert provider.  We’d recommend these questions in conjunction with our popular post entitled Medical Alert Systems: The Top 10 Questions You Should Ask Before Buying.

Know Before You Go - It will save you one heck of a headache!