Emergencies happen. As we get older, our risk of falling increases, and it's essential that help is available when needed. Medical alert devices ensure assistance is just a button push away when urgent situations arise, and there are different kinds of medical alert systems for every type of person. Devices range from bracelets and watches to buttons you wear around your neck, on your waistband, or clipped to your pocket.
Let us break down some of the most common types of medical alert devices on the market and the terminology so you can choose the one that's right for you.
Monitored vs. Unmonitored Devices
All medical alert systems have the same basic concept. If you experience a fall or another type of emergency and need help, you push a button, sending an alert. However, who gets the call varies between systems. First, you will need to decide whether you want a monitored or unmonitored medical alert device.
Monitored Medical Alert Device
With a monitored device, pushing the button on your wearable wristband or pendant sends an alert to the system's 24/7 monitoring center. A highly trained life safety consultant will communicate with you via your system's base unit or wearable device.
The operator assesses your situation and determines the level of help you need. The operator can immediately send medical personnel if you've fallen, experienced an injury, or just don’t feel well. If you require a helping hand, the operator can contact a family member, friend, or neighbor.
Monitored medical alert systems have a monthly subscription fee. This cost ensures faster response times, proper assistance depending on your situation, and sometimes GPS locating to ensure emergency response can pinpoint your exact location.
Some devices are equipped with automatic fall detection and can place a call to the monitoring center if a fall is detected, even if you can’t push the help button. The operator will attempt to reach out to you, but if no response is provided from you, emergency services will be sent to ensure your safety.
Unmonitored Medical Alert Device
Unmonitored medical alert systems tend to be less expensive with no subscription fee. However, the level of service is quite different. There is no 24/7 monitoring center when you push a button. The alert automatically dials a predetermined number, usually 911 or a family member or friend.
One disadvantage of unmonitored systems is that it is not possible to determine the type of assistance required. If 911 is the automatic number dialed, medical personnel will arrive whether you need their services or not. If your automatic number is a friend or family member, they may not recognize the phone number and ignore the call, meaning you wouldn't receive help in a timely manner.
Home-Based vs. Mobile Systems
Once you decide between a monitored or unmonitored system, the next decision is to select the type of medical alert device you want. There are two types of personal emergency response systems (PERS) — home-based or mobile. More people are choosing mobile medical alert systems with cellular technology advancements because they can be used anywhere.
Home-Based Medical Alert Device
The name says it all with home-based medical alert devices — your medical alert device only works in or around your home. The protection range could be anywhere from 400 to 1,200 feet from the device's base unit, with some systems reaching as far as 1,400 feet.
Traditional in-home base units plug into a wall and phone jack, and a landline is required to use a device. However, some home-based devices utilize a cellular network, so no landline is needed.
Whichever you choose, both include a wearable help button or a voice-activated wall button. These features allow you to push the wearable button whenever an emergency occurs or speak into a wall button for help. Some wearable, monitored at-home devices also include automatic fall detection, which sends help if the emergency operator cannot establish two-way communication with you.
Mobile Medical Alert Systems
Mobile medical alert devices are on-the-go systems that provide security no matter where your day takes you. The wearable device uses cellular technology, so no base unit is required.
Mobile devices have a two-way communicator, so you can speak to an operator even when you're out and about. Plus, these systems utilize GPS tracking, so responders can find your location immediately if you require medical assistance. GPS also allows friends or family members to find you if you experience memory loss or confusion.
Mobile medical alert systems are more functional and tend to be more expensive. However, if you leave your home often or like to be outdoors, the cost is worth that extra protection.
What Are Fall Detection Devices?
Not all medical alert devices come with fall detection. However, if you struggle with falling or have a medical condition, you may want to ensure that your PERS has this feature.
State-of-the-art fall detection uses specialized sensor technology to detect when a fall suddenly occurs. This technology senses the abrupt change by evaluating your body's position, physical activity, and the smoothness of your movements.
Fall detection is an invaluable feature that could save your life because you may be unable to push your device's help button after a fall. When your device detects a fall, it automatically initiates an alert to a monitoring center that is open 24/7. A trained operator reaches out through the two-way speaker to evaluate your situation. If you are unresponsive, the operator calls emergency services on your behalf.
Which Type of Medical Alert Device Is Best for You?
A medical alert device could be a life-saving piece of equipment. It will give you and your loved ones peace of mind and add to your overall security.
After selecting a type of device and monitoring services, here are some other aspects to consider when choosing a medical alert system:
- Medical alert system costs: Medical alert devices come in various price points. However, be careful about selecting an "inexpensive" system. Many of these lock you into contracts or contain hidden fees. Companies should be completely transparent about all costs associated with your PERS.
- Battery: While some systems plug into the wall, mobile and wearable devices require batteries. Be sure to find out how long batteries last and whether they can be recharged. You may also want to ask if the base unit has a backup battery in case of a power outage
- Range: For home-based systems, understand how far the wearable device can roam from the base unit and still work properly.
- Landline vs. cellular: A landline may be the better option if you have spotty cellular service, live in a more rural location, or have a house with a metal roof and concrete block walls.
- Online portal: Many medical alert companies feature an online portal or mobile app that allows you to share pertinent information in an emergency. A portal will also allow caregivers to connect to it and better care for your needs.
Customized Medical Alert Systems From Medical Guardian
At Medical Guardian, we work to customize our medical alert system to fit your unique needs and lifestyle. Whether you choose a home-based PERS or a wearable device you can take on the go, we offer exceptional products, services and features. If you want the peace of mind a medical alert system can provide, please take our product quiz to see which options suit your needs. You can also contact our team.