For About and By Caregivers
Alert Systems 101



Choosing a medical alert system has become more complicated as the available options on the market have increased and the technology has changed and improved. However, through the myriad of options, there is a common sense baseline of safety and security these systems provide to a loved one and their caregiver. Knowing that someone is available at all times in case of emergency helps everyone sleep better at night.

There are generally two types of systems available: monitoring and non-monitoring. With a monitoring service, when an alert is activated, a live person communicates with a loved one, assesses the situation and dispatches public safety appropriately. Also, the service notifies family members or neighbors.

The other option is the less-expensive, non-monitored assistance alert. This is in case of an emergency and may provide life-saving information to first responders such as medications, allergies, conditions, etc. Also, a lockbox could provide a key for emergency personnel to use and enter a home when the need arises.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind while on the hunt for the perfect system to meet a loved oneís needs:

  1. Cost
    Although cost is a key factor when choosing a system, a caregiver should not allow a low cost to be the only consideration. What is the quality of service? Some suggest a caregiver ask for a free trial period, to see if the service is up to their standard and covers a loved oneís needs adequately.
  2. Range
    What is the range of the device? If a loved one falls in a bathroom, do they have access with them? Is it in another room? Can the person responding still hear them?
  3. Response center
    The system is only as good as the center behind it. One important question to ask a potential supplier is what the response center does in an emergency. Does the call go to the center or directly to 911? Some people may think 911 is the better answer, but actually a response center should be trained to handle these emergencies and also contact loved ones. Also, what is the centerís average response time, specific training offered for staff, and procedures used to test the alert system?  
  4. Contract
    Like any other service agreement, itís important to read the fine print before signing on the dotted line. Does the company have a cancellation policy? What is it? What does it cost? The last thing a caregiver wants in an already-stressful time is to deal with unexpected costs and issues. Know the details ahead of time to make the best decision before you commit.
  5. Peer reviews
    What are others saying about prospective alert systems? A caregiver can check with the Better Business Bureau, online reviews, and also talk to neighbors and friends who have a system. Find out what they like and donít like, then present those findings to companies of interest.
  6. Transmitter
    Does the transmitter have a certain battery life? Who monitors that? How often is it checked and who is responsible for replacing the battery?
  7. Certification
    A certification a caregiver wants to look for in a medical monitoring service is ďUL-listed.Ē UL stands for Underwriters Laboratory.  A listed center is a one that has met certain requirements with equipment, building, staffing, etc. To be listed, these standards must be met at all times.

With some careful consideration and preparation, a caregiver can make a well-educated decision when picking a medical alert system.  A loved one may be resistant to change at first, but eventually find comfort in knowing they have assistance available around the clock. Their caregiver will feel the same way too.

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