One thing most medical alert systems have in common is that they connect the wearer to a monitoring center. It’s a key part of the service. Knowing a real live person is on hand to help when it’s needed is reassuring for seniors and their caregivers.
Let’s take a closer look at medical alert monitoring, why it matters, and helpful questions to ask so you can find out more about a medical alert company’s monitoring policy.
What Is Medical Alert Monitoring?
Medical alert monitoring means that when a senior presses their medical alert button (or when it’s triggered by automatic fall detection), they’re connected with a monitoring center where a live person can talk with them and assess the situation.
Monitoring center agents are trained to respond to emergencies by assessing the needs of their customer and dispatching EMTs, caregivers, or family members as needed.
Do All Medical Alert Systems Have Monitoring?
No. There are some medical alerts out there that don’t connect their customers directly to a monitoring center. Instead, these alerts automatically call pre-programmed numbers, such as family members, or call 911.
We don’t recommend non-monitored medical alerts because they rely on raising an answer from one of the people on the list. With a monitored medical alert, agents take responsibility for getting an answer or sending EMTs. Basically, they don’t hang up until they know their customer has the help they need.
Some non-monitored alerts call 911 directly. However, because it’s automatic, they have no way to assess whether that’s the right thing to do, which could lead to unneeded emergency calls, EMTs needing to break into the home, or even fees for unnecessary ambulance trips.
A monitored medical alert means monitoring center staff can thoroughly assess the situation and make sure the best course of action is taken.
How Does Medical Alert Monitoring Work?
When a senior presses their medical alert button, their device immediately connects with the monitoring center. Some medical alerts have automatic fall detection, which means that if they detect a fall they automatically initiate a connection to the monitoring center.
Monitoring center staff will respond quickly and communicate with their customer using the two-way speaker in an in-home base station or within the pendant itself. For traditional in-home medical alerts, this intercom is housed in the base station. Seniors need to be in range of this base station in order to talk with the monitoring center (base stations generally have a range of 600ft – 1000ft, which is big enough to cover most homes.)
Many medical alerts are cellular – instead of having a base station, they work off a cellular network and can be used anywhere there’s cell coverage. Seniors either carry the device and wear a button to press, or have an all-in-one device that houses both the intercom and the button. With mobile cellular medical alerts, seniors connect with monitoring center staff via the mobile device itself.
Who Does the Monitoring Center Staff Get In Touch With?
One of the biggest advantages of a monitored medical alert is that monitoring center staff can vary their response to fit the situation. Most companies let their customers list different contacts, such as family members or caregivers, that monitoring center staff can reach out to if needed. In some situations, seniors don’t need emergency services, so being able to call a friend or family member first is ideal.
Of course, monitoring center staff can also send out emergency services as needed. As well as EMTs, they can dispatch fire or police services if necessary.
What Do Monitoring Centers Monitor For?
The main purpose of monitored medical alerts is to make sure seniors can talk to a real live person when they need to. However, it’s worth mentioning here that some medical alert companies also offer activity tracking. This means caregivers can keep an eye on mom or dad, and see where they are. Some services also send out caregiver alerts if it looks like their loved one hasn’t been active for a certain period of time, or if they leave the house or designated geo-fence areas.
Some of the smartwatch-style medical alerts even monitor things like heart rate, to help seniors keep a close eye on their health. However, please note that although health and activity stats might trigger caregiver alerts, they don’t necessarily trigger monitoring center contact.
How Much Does Medical Alert Monitoring Cost?
When you pay for a monthly subscription with a medical alert system, you’re paying for access to the monitoring center whenever it’s needed. Medical alert systems start around $20 monthly for in-home systems, up to $45 or more for mobile cellular systems.
What Are The Benefits of Medical Alert Monitoring?
There are lots of benefits to medical alert monitoring:
- Help is always at hand when you need it.
- Most companies treat any button press as an emergency, so in the event a senior is out of range of the base station or can’t speak, help will be dispatched.
- Medical monitoring cuts down on unexpected EMT visits because monitoring center staff can determine the best action to take.
- Getting help quickly can ultimately cut down the length of hospital stays, and even aid in faster recovery, because seniors aren’t left in an uncomfortable position with no one to help.
- Seniors and caregivers alike get a lot of peace of mind from knowing someone is always available at the press of a button.
- Can help seniors age in place and stay in their own homes longer, because they have access to help even if they live alone or their partner is getting frail.
- Many companies have a lockbox feature, so EMTs can gain access to the home without needing to damage entry doors.
- As well as getting emergency help, seniors can connect with the monitoring center any time to make sure the equipment is working as expected.
What Do I Need To Know About Medical Alert Monitoring Centers?
When you’re looking for a medical alert, it’s a good idea to ask each company some questions about their medical alert monitoring center. We recommend asking the following:
- Are calls monitored 24/7 365 days a year? (Most are, but do check as this is vital.)
- What is their typical response time for a call?
- Are their centers US-based? (The answer should be yes.)
- What is the procedure if they can’t make verbal contact after a button press? You’re looking for them to treat each button press as an emergency, and dispatch EMTs or other emergency contacts if they can’t make verbal contact.
- Whether monitoring center personnel speak the languages you need them to speak. If mom or dad is more fluent in a different language than English, it’s important to know that call center staff can talk to them in their preferred language.
- What kind of training do they give monitoring center agents? Those agents are going to be the first point of contact if your loved one falls or is having a medical emergency. You want to know that they’re well trained and that the company upholds high standards of professionalism and empathy for all its staff.
- Which services can they reach out to on your behalf? Can they contact the police or fire services? How many other contacts, such as family members, can be listed?
- What is their redundancy policy? A redundancy policy means there are backup monitoring centers available at all times, that can be activated in seconds if something (for example, extreme weather or technical problems) prevents one of their centers from operating.
- Are they Underwriters Laboratory certified? UL certification means their monitoring centers meet industry standards and best practices.
- Are they Five Diamond certified? The Monitoring Associations’ (TMA) Five Diamond certification means a monitoring center adheres to the TMA’s five points of best practice.
Choosing a medical alert is a big decision. Doing some research into the monitoring center practices means you have all the information you need to choose a company that provides the excellent service your loved ones deserve.