26 September 2018
Medical Alert Systems – By Interchange Australia Consultant, Suzanne Eustace
If you are frail, have limited mobility or suffer from a debilitating illness, you may consider using a personal alarm system of which there are a multitude of options to choose from.
Basically, they are all medical alert systems—where the press of a wearable call button puts you in touch with a dispatcher who can summon emergency help or contact a friend or family member which offers reassurance to family and friends.
Sometimes the idea of a mobile phone device is the preferred option but if you don’t have an emergency response system on your body that is going to stay on your body, you’re at risk.
Do you want a home-based or mobile system?
Originally, medical alert systems were designed to work inside your home with your landline telephone. With these systems, pressing the wearable call button allows you to speak to a dispatcher through a base unit located in your home.
Many companies now also offer the option of home-based systems that work over a cellular network for those who may not have a landline. You can use these systems at home, but they’ll also allow you to call for help while you’re out and about. These operate over cellular networks and incorporate GPS technology. This way, if you get lost or press the call button for help but are unable to talk, the monitoring service can find you.
Someone who is frail and doesn’t leave the house often may not need a mobile system, while an active older adult may want added protection outside the home.
Should your system be monitored or not?
There are systems that are all monitored, meaning that the call button connects you with someone at a 24/7 dispatching centre. They follow a pre-arranged emergency response plan. The other option is to choose a system that isn’t monitored. With these systems, when you press the call button, the device automatically dials a friend or family member on your programmed emergency call list. These products can often be set up to call multiple people and to contact emergency services if you don’t get an answer from someone on your list.
A key difference between the two is price. Monitored systems carry a monthly fee in addition to the purchase price for the device. But with unmonitored systems, you generally pay only for the device itself. Monitored systems may also have other fees, such as activation fees as well as minimum commitments or contracts. Cancellation and return policies can vary.
Should you add a fall-detection feature?
Some companies offer the option of automatic fall detection for an additional monthly fee. Manufacturers say these devices sense falls when they occur and automatically contact the dispatch centre, just as they would if you had pressed the call button. In some cases however, this feature may register something as a fall that isn’t. The alarm might go off if you drop it or momentarily lose your balance but don’t actually land on the ground.
Most transmitters are water resistant and can be worn 24/7, including in the shower. The level of water resistance can vary with the device.
Range of activation can vary with the average range of 150 metres which is sufficient in and around the home and garden. Some offer an extension of range up to 300 metres or more. This is useful for those on larger properties. It is important to select the system with an appropriate range for the home and it should be tested in all areas.
Some new systems can detect movement or lack of movement using a passive infra-red sensor.
Factors to consider when choosing a medical alert system
- Availability of support persons to be called in an emergency;
- Access to a person’s home in an emergency i.e. access to the key;
- Costs involved;
- Users ability i.e. be physically able to operate and willing to activate the alarm;
- Environment i.e. the distance the user would be from the receiver unit to ensure that they can activate the alarm; and
- Connection to the NBN can complicate the alarm working safely
At Interchange Australia, services can be arranged to ensure that our support staff check that your loved one is wearing their medical alarm device. This offers peace of mind and is just one of the many support services we offer.
For more information about our services, please call one of our friendly and experienced consultants on 1300 112 334.