Exciting New Senior Care Companies Emerge

new senior care companies are excitingWe live in a very exciting time for senior care.  The combination of a quickly aging population, robust purchasing power, innovative technology and venture capitalists wanting in on the action is a recipe for some incredibly useful tools for older adults and caregivers alike.  A plethora of emerging companies have been welcomed by Aging2.0, a program designed to nurture and accelerate a select group of startups, and have our senses tingling with anticipation as well.  These companies have all been selected for the highly competitive Aging2.0 Academy where they will receive support, mentorship, and introductions to investors and customers to help them accomplish their goals.  Some of these companies are up and running, others are still in beta.  The future of senior care is here and we will be watching these emerging companies very closely.  Here are some of our favorites.

Caregiving/ Caremanagement

Care Monster is a caregiving app that supports family communication and encourages engagement when it comes to the care of a loved one.

CareMerge is a care coordination platform that forges meaningful connections between providers, payers, families and seniors to improve communication in today’s complex healthcare environment.

GeriJoy provides 24/7 companionship, supervision, and care management support through senior care avatars; improving quality of care, increasing safety, and lowering cost.

Roobrik is an online decision tool that helps family caregivers make difficult health and care choices with clarity and confidence.

Fall Detection/ Prevention

Active Protective produces smart garments that reduce hip fractures in the elderly by deploying micro-airbags to protect the hip in the event of a fall.

WalkJoy is a wearable device which reduces falls for patients with peripheral neuropathy by restoring the sensory feedback loop. The WalkingHealth software provides objective gait analysis, fall risk prediction and functional outcome data to therapists.

Tablets and Phones

Breezie is a simplified, personalized tablet interface designed for seniors and those less familiar with technology.

Gociety creates software that simplifies the smart phones interface for older adults. Their products, GoLivePhone® and GoLiveAssist®, are easily accessible and highly affordable.

Senior Care Planning

Everplans is the first comprehensive digital planning platform that allows families to create, store and share essential end-of-life wishes and emergency plans.

Vynca is a digital health company that provides cloud-based software for Advance Care Planning.

Communication Devices

Smartstones is the world’s first wearable, sensorial communication device, which connects family members and friends through simple gesture-based messages. *As a mom and a family caregiver, I can’t wait for this one to go to market.*

We will be following these companies and will continue to provide updates on the products and services they offer.  In the meantime, if you have experience with any of these services or products, please let us know in the comments below.

For a complete list of companies selected for the Aging2.0 Academy, visit the Aging2.0 website.

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

how CareBeacon works

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.

Would You Like a Medical Alert Recommendation?

Medical Alert Buyers Guide

5 Tips on Choosing A Medical Alert System Provider

Choosing the right Medical Alert System: 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 a Medical Alert System Provider

    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 and tips on choosing a medical alert system 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!

Would You Like a Medical Alert Recommendation?

Medical Alert Buyers Guide

Medical Alert Industry Going Digital

Medical Alert Industry: iWatch renderingIf you or a family member is wearing a traditional (tethered to your land-line based telephone) medical alert system, you probably won’t be in a few years.  You see times they are a changing.  Traditional land-line based telephone systems are becoming a thing of the past… And those land-line based medical alert systems (think “I’ve fallen and I can’t  get up”) will be pushed out of the way by newer digital mobile devices.  It’s actually happening right now… The medical alert industry is changing before our very eyes! Medical alert industry: emergency alert pendantThe landscape in this market is changing at a rapid pace.  Traditional form factors like the iconic pendant buttons could also be replaced.  Did you know that there are medical alert apps out there for the iPhone and for Android devices?  Wearable digital devices are the new rage.  Think the new iWatch won’t have a medical alert app?  Think again… The innovators out there (the companies that will lead this space) have already begun to go mobile.  GreatCall, Philips and MobileHelp have already been leaning in this direction, and I’m guessing there are more innovators out there preparing to enter this space. The Senior List recently published a profile of 5 cellular based medical alert system providers currently on the market.  There are 2 additional cell based medical alert systems scheduled to launch this fall.  One from Philips Lifeline and from MobileHelp.  Further “change agents” will see this market as ripe for innovation, and it should prove very interesting to follow.

Would You Like a Medical Alert Recommendation?

Medical Alert Buyers Guide

Medical Alert System Providers: Pay Attention

Medical alert system providers | SureResponse with Lanyard photo

It’s time for medical alert system providers to pay attention to consumers

The market for Medical Alert Systems  is changing before our eyes.  The move to mobile alert systems has just started, and it is the wave of the future.  There’s still a place for tethered (traditional land-line based) medical alert systems, but in the next few years we will see a tipping point when all of the pendants, belt clips and wrist watch like alert systems are cellular/mobile based.

The Senior List is trying to change the mindset of medical alert system manufacturers, by asking them to pay more attention to the needs of consumers.  Many of these manufacturers/dealers have forgotten about the consumer the minute the device is shipped out the door.  When the medical alert company sells you an alert device, you instantly become a valuable annuity to the seller.  A typical consumer pays a nominal fee for the equipment, and then pays a monthly annuity in the form of a “monitoring fee” for the alert’s monitoring services (code for access to a call center).  These monthly monitoring fees range between $15 per month to over $60 per month (per device).  Over the course of a 3 year period (at an average of around $39 per month) consumers are shelling out $ 1,404 for call-center-services.  This isn’t chump-change, and consumers should expect good value/good service for their hard earned money!

medical alert system providers

For this kind of money; 1. You ought to be able to speak to someone (live) regarding service issues when you want…  2.  You ought to be able to exchange faulty equipment for operational equipment (at no charge)… And 3.  You should expect that if you aren’t satisfied with your current provider, you can walk away with no penalty for doing so.  10 years ago there weren’t many options to choose from, but we’ve come a long way since “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”… Now there are newer players entering this arena (like GreatCall, Verizon Wireless and SecuraTrac), and traditional players with new products (like MobileHelp, teasing the upcoming myHalo fall detection device).

“When the medical device company sells you an alert device, you become a valuable annuity to the seller.”

Medical alert system providers | ResponseLink Medical Alert PendantIf you look around The Senior List, it doesn’t take long to see frustrated consumers complaining about the service (or lack thereof) they are receiving from medical alert system providers out there.  A prime example of this can be seen in the comments following our product review of the new Verizon Wireless alert system called SureResponse.  Early reviews of the SureResponse alert system are far from stellar… Check out the recent comments section to see what current users are saying about this device.  What’s more surprising is the lack of “response” from the makers of the “SureResponse”.  A bit ironic eh?

Here at The Senior List we’ve also been frustrated at the lack of response from Verizon.  Check out our recent tweets to Verizon… We had hoped to get their attention so we could help you out… AND ultimately help them out!  A satisfied consumer is a long-term annuity for them, a dissatisfied consumer leaves Verizon for GreatCall, SecuraTrac, MobileHelp or someone else… Why wouldn’t they want to instill confidence in their new alert device and the associated service?  Frankly, it’s simply because they aren’t paying attention.

“Successful companies selling to boomers and seniors will be the companies that are paying attention.”

Note to Verizon… We’d still like to help you… Heck, if you’re not paying attention to us… We’re not sure what (or who) you’re paying attention to.  Successful companies selling to boomers and seniors will be the companies that are paying attention.  This includes the medical alert system providers/dealers, the hearing aid providers, and the market for vision correction.

medical alert system providers

Would You Like a Medical Alert Recommendation?

Medical Alert Buyers Guide

Product Reviews: iStand Fall Prevention App

iStand fall prevention appOn February 12th HoliVision launched a new iPad app for seniors called The iStand Falls Prevention® Exercise Program.  iStand is a fall prevention/exercise app for your iPad that allows users to follow along AND exercise with… “Brenda” (the instructor).  Brenda leads the user through a number of exercises (including a warm up and cool down) via video modules.  These videos are easy to follow, and the production quality is very high.  (We were quite impressed.)  The iStand App would be a very nice addition to the other iPad apps in your “wellness” folder, and it’s free to folks that can put up with advertisements (we certainly could).  For 99 cents you can buy the Ad-Free-Version, and for $4.99 you can add the iStand Tai Chi module.

About HoliVision:

HoliVision was founded by Mazy Holiday (COO).  HoliVision specializes in falls prevention exercise (and education) for seniors.  They also focus on the latest technology and design in walking aids for rehabilitation and mobility.  Mazy notes that there isn’t a nationwide fall prevention program currently, which is strange because of the number of seniors who are severely injured due to falls each year. This was a driving factor behind the iStand app for iPad.

The iStand Fall Prevention Exercise App:

iStand fall prevention app for seniorsWhat:  iStand fall-prevention exercise App for the iPad (you won’t find it for the iPhone yet)

Cost: Free (.99 for the ad-free version, and $4.99 for the Tai Chi module)

Recommendation: Senior List Approved – We think the iStand fall prevention/exercise app is worth downloading.  It’s very professionally done, and has some additional value-The Senior List Check Markadds like “If You Fall” tips, “Walking Tips”, and a “Home Safety Checklist”.

iStand fall prevention app for iPad

HoliVision also makes an iStand DVD which is currently available on Amazon.com. Holiday says future plans include making iStand available across multiple platforms, and on a global basis.  Click thru if you’d like to read HoliVision’s press release for the iStand App.

Mobile Help Now Acquires Halo Monitoring

Mobile Help Now logoplus signMobile Help Now acquires my Halo Halo Monitoring

Mobile Help Now Acquires Halo Monitoring

If you weren’t aware, Mobile Help (Boca Raton, Florida) has acquired a company we’ve had our eye on for quite some time, Halo Monitoring (Halo’s website now redirects to MobileHelp).  The consolidation could be good or it could be bad for the PERS-Medical Alarm market depending on how you see it AND depending on what Mobile Help does with the Halo technology.  IF they invest, improve and expand the my Halo platform it’s probably a great thing for the fall detection market.   IF they bury Halo Monitoring, it’s one less choice for consumers and a waste of a once promising technology.The myHalo Fall Detection Device

Here are some excerpts from the MobileHelp press release entitled MobileHelp acquires Halo Monitoring to build out PERS offering.

“The acquisition of Halo Monitoring is an important step on our journey to expand our solution portfolio of Home Healthcare and Monitoring solutions that further improve the well-being of seniors who rely on our products,” Rob Flippo, CEO of MobileHelp said in a statement. “We are excited to add additional capabilities to our best-in-class mPERS offerings, in addition to bringing on board talent to further expand our technology capabilities.” – Brian Dolan, MobiHealthNews

Medical Alert SystemsMobile Help Now hand held unit

The Senior List has written extensively about Personal Emergency Response Systems including Fall Detection Devices.  Click through for a short list of medical alert systems available today.  From there, you’ll be able to read our reviews of medical alert systems and become familiar with the different types of medical alert choices for aging adults.

Mobile Help Now | The myHalo chest strap Fall Detection DeviceHalo Monitoring was one of the first companies to include automatic fall detection in its wearable PERS devices, which send an alert to caregivers and/or a call center when the person wearing the pendant falls — it does not require the wearer to push any buttons to trigger the alert. – Brian Dolan, MobiHealthNews

 mobile help now acquires my halo monitoring

Product Review: The Wellcore Personal Emergency Response System

**Note: This product is no longer available in the US Market**

The Wellcore Personal Emergency Response System stormed onto the market in early 2010 with a great deal of enthusiasm , and then disappeared mysteriously from the market just as abruptly as it appeared.  It remains OFF the market at this time, and a Wellcore Personal Emergency Response Systemcompany representative told The Senior List that “We licensed our fall detection technology last year, and have since discontinued shipping the product to end customers“.  The below review is an fyi just in case we see this mysterious fall detection device resurface sometime soon…

Product Info: Wellcore Personal Emergency Response System

  • Name:  Wellcore Personal Emergency Response System
  • Website Info:  www.wellcore.com- *this site no longer exists*
  • Auto Fall Detection? :  Yes
  • Equipment Cost:  $199
  • Monthly Cost:  $49
  • Features:  Brushed Aluminum Belt Clip, Water Proof Panic Buttons, Wireless, 24/7 Monitoring, Auto Fall Detection, Activity Tracking, Online Dashboard (for activity tracking, etc), Cell Phone Compatible

Review: The Wellcore Medical Alert System

Even though the Wellcore fall detection device is OFF the market, it sounds as though a deal may be in the Wellcore Personal Emergency Response Systemworks and that we could see it again sometime this year (licensed away, but perhaps re-branded).  Given this assumption, we’ll include this system in our review of Medical Alert Systems.

The Wellcore Personal Emergency Response System is one of the new PERS/Fall Detection brands on the block.  Launched officially at CES 2010’s Silver Summit, the Wellcore alert system touts a “brushed aluminum” base station and mobile device with a contemporary design.  Like most/all of the other manufacturers, the mobile alert buttons are waterproof.  The base station will remind the user to to wear their mobile device if forgotten.

The Bottom Line: Wellcore Alert System

The Wellcore System incorporates Fall Detection Technology that automatically senses when a user has fallen (even if they don’t press the panic button).  If the user is unresponsive to the base unit’s inquiry, help is summond by a call center.  Interestingly, The Wellcore system can be paired with a “Wellcore-compatible cell phone” to provide fall detection on the go (anywhere within the cell phone’s coverage area). Also includes an online dashboard with secure access for monitoring and activity trending data.

If you’ve used the Wellcore Medical Alert System with Fall Detection or know someone who has, please let us know your opinion in the comments section below

**Note: This product is no longer available in the US Market

Medical Alert Systems – The Top 10 Questions You Should Ask Before Buying

top 10 questions you should ask before buying a Medical Alert System

Medical Alert Systems (or personal emergency response systems) are wonderful devices that allow aging adults the opportunity to remain in their homes (more safely), and stay as independent as possible.  Keeping up with this new technology is difficult, and knowing the right questions to ask is even harder!  If you haven’t seen our Medical Alert System Round Up you should check it out, and provide feedback (especially if you’ve had experience with any of the featured manufacturers).

Today’s focus on Medical Alert Systems is aptly titled The Top 10 Questions To Ask When Evaluating Medical Alert Systems.  So without further adieu… Here is our Top 10 List (drum roll please):

Top 10 Questions To Ask Before Buying a Medical Alert System

1.  Does this medical alert system work with VOIP (voice over internet protocol) telephone services?  If you have Comcast or Verizon cable at home, chances are that you might also be using them for your (home) phone service.  If that’s the case, you are likely are using a VOIP plan (just as we here at The Senior List are with Vonage, another major VOIP provider).  Many of the traditional medical alert system providers recommend checking with your home (VOIP) phone provider to see whether they offer local 911 (and other) services.  So keep this in mind, and ask*. (*Note:  The alert system providers will know about their compatibility with the major phone service providers.)Medical Alert Systems - top 10 questions you need to know

2.  What is the range of my alert system?  MOST of the major medical alert system providers have the following components included in their “systems”.  A base station and a pendent of some kind (necklace – worn around the neck, belt clip, or wrist watch like device.  The myHalo system even has a chest strap).  MOST of the pendants need to communicate (wirelessly) with a base station that is connected to your home phone line.  So, you need to know the range of that pendant to the base station.  Usually this range covers most normal sized homes, and is in the neighborhood of 400-600 feet.  After installation be sure to test out the range inside (and outside) the home.

3.  Does someone install this for me, or do I do it myself?  Many manufacturers have sales/marketing representatives that will come to your home and install/test the system for you.  They usually charge a one time set-up fee for this service so ask about that fee is ahead of time! If all they do is send the alert system to you, make sure there is ample literature (on and off line) for assistance with set-up AND testing.  Always TEST your medical alert system before using it.

Medical Alert Systems - What you need to know4.  Do I need a land line to use this medical alert system?  In most cases the answer will be YES, but there are a few exceptions.  For example, The MobileHelp Medical Alert System has a small hand-held device that connects to AT&T Wireless for use outside the home (anywhere covered by AT&T).  To use their pendant (small necklace) device around the home, you still need a land line however.  Also, The Wellcore Personal Emergency Response System boasts the ability to interface with some cell phones to extend the range of their device outside the home.

5.  Who staffs your call center, where are they located, and what are the average response times?  OK, this is a bit of a loaded question, because “outsourcing” call centers has been a trend that many, many companies take advantage of.  Frankly, I’ve found great service from call centers all over the world, and the only thing you need to be wary of here is PERFORMANCE.

6.  Does the medical alert system come with other services?  Some medical alert systems come with additional services such as medication reminders, glucose monitoring reminders, and the like.  It’s good to know what other services can be included with the purchase of your services, so make sure you ask what’s included.

7.  What happens if something goes wrong with my equipment?  Most of us hate reading the fine print.  I challenge anyone out there to read the “terms and conditions” of the 5 or 6 medical alert devices you want to evaluate (gives me a headache even thinking about doing that again).  So that in mind, I would encourage anyone making a decision on a particular device to ask; What happens if your system goes down?  Does someone come out to fix it?  Will they send you another one asap?  Do you need to send the disfunctional system back? etc.   Also, one other point… when you have narrowed down your choice, read the fine print by looking up the terms-and-conditions of the particular provider on their websites.

8.  Does the medical alert system include “automatic fall detection”?  Medical alert systems have come a long way in the last 5 years.  Today’s advanced systems can detect when a user has fallen automatically.  It’s all in the advanced algorithms developed by brilliant engineers and embedded into smallmedical alert systems devices which are saving lives everyday.  These smart-systems can distinguish (in most cases) between when someone has actually fallen, and when someone has decided to sit down abruptly.  “The big three” that (currently) offer automatic fall detection are Halo Monitoring Systems, Wellcore Personal Emergency Response (now discontinued), and Philips Lifeline with auto alert.

9.  Am I purchasing these devices, or leasing them, or neither?  Goes back to my prior suggestion about reading the fine print… Find out (ahead of time) whether the equipment is yours or not.  What happens if you no longer require the equipment?  What happens if you damage the equipment?

10.  What is my total yearly cost?  This gets down to it… How much does this cost me each year (total cash outflow).  Enough said…

Click this link for a list of Local Personal Emergency Response System Providers that have added their business listings to The Senior List Eldercare Directory!

If you found this Top 10 List helpful, please pass it along to those in need.  Also, if you have additional important questions to add to the list, please do share!!!

Would You Like a Medical Alert Recommendation?

Medical Alert Buyers Guide