1/14/2021 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Adult children will always worry about their aging parents’ safety, especially if they live alone. The thought of them having an accident with no one else around provides plenty of cause for concern. Fortunately, a medical alert system offers an option to ease those worries and lessen the risks of older adults living independently.

But before you rush out and buy a medical alert system for a senior you love, however, your first step should be a conversation with the potential recipient. Many older adults have medical conditions that could trigger an emergency, so an evaluation of your loved one’s abilities and needs should precede any purchase.

As you research these devices, you will discover there are numerous offerings and price ranges. You will be deciding among features such as cellular connectivity, GPS, voice activation, fall detection and prevention, health monitoring, movement sensors, and activity trackers. The alert service might be via a smartphone or as part of a home security system.

To get you started, here are some questions that you’ll need to have answered so you can ensure you’re matching a system to the needs of your parent or other loved one. Let’s start with the most obvious one.

What is a medical alert system?

Medical alert systems connect their users, often older adults living alone, with either a medical service or a loved one. Although the systems are designed mostly for medical emergencies, they could save lives during a fire or break-in. Whatever the crisis, the likelihood that seniors will get the help they need will be greater if they use a medical alert system.

Adult children typically choose a medical alert system for an aging parent under one or more of the following circumstances:

  • After an incident such as a fall or stroke
  • The parent starts living independently
  • No family members or friends live nearby to check on their parent
  • The parent is taking medication that could cause side effects requiring medical treatment
  • The parent is often hard to contact and causes excessive worry for the children
  • The parent is susceptible to falls

In the past, medical alert systems were confined to use in the home. However, today’s technology allows seniors to take their systems wherever they go, as long as there is a cellular signal.

What do you want the medical alert system to do for your loved one?

As you consider what you want in a device, think about any specific conditions that could hinder a loved one from using it, such as hearing loss, dementia, or limited fine motor skills. Then consider some of the following functions:

  • Fall detection: Every year, one in four Americans over 65 has a fall, making this the top reason for getting an alert system for an aging parent.
  • Call emergency services or a family member for help: Devices with a help button can connect a senior with a monitoring center or any pre-programmed contact. 
  • Medical monitoring: Some devices will monitor vital signs and provide medication reminders.
  • Movement and activity detection: Motion-sensing technology will call for check-in to ensure things are okay if no movements are detected.
  • Locate a loved one: A useful feature for active seniors or those with dementia who might wander and get lost. These mobile systems use GPS and other services to provide the device’s location to EMTs or caregivers.
  • Check-in services: Monitoring companies may offer daily wellness checks, either electronically or through a phone call.
  • Connection to a caregiver: You might want a system that allows caregivers to see the location of a parent’s device, along with their activity and call history.

What features would you like to see on the system?

As you shop for the medical alert system, you will face a host of features from which to choose. Ask the following questions to ensure the device is right for your loved one’s needs:

  • Is the device water-resistant, allowing it to be worn in the shower or the rain?
  • How far can the user roam from the base unit and still have it work properly?
  • Must the device be charged and, if so, how long can it go between charges?
  • Is there a backup for the base unit during a power outage?
  • Does the base unit connect to a phone jack or use a cellular network?

Before you make a final decision on a medical alert system, ask if the company will allow a 30-day trial during which your loved one can try it; this way, you can ensure that the system is a proper fit for your loved ones’ needs. If it isn’t, you can return the system and find a more suitable one.

Here are some tips on how to pick the best one!

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff