Medical alert devices that can help keep seniors safe

Published 10:56am Friday, April 20, 2012

Dear Savvy Senior
I’m interested in getting my mother, who lives alone, a medical alert device with a wearable SOS button that she can push in case she falls or needs help. What kinds of devices can you recommend and how much do they cost?
~ Searching Daughter

Dear Searching,
There’s a wide variety of medical alert systems on the market today that can help keep elderly seniors safe, while living in their own home. Here’s a breakdown of some different styles and prices to help you choose.
Monitored Alerts
The most popular medical alert systems available today are the ones that will connect your mom to a 24-hour emergency monitoring service when she needs help. These units come with waterproof “SOS” buttons – typically in the form of a necklace pendent or bracelet – and a base station that connects to her home phone line.
At the press of a button, your mom could call and talk to a trained operator through the system’s base station receiver which works like a powerful speaker phone. The operator will find out what’s wrong, and will notify family members, a neighbor, friend or emergency services as needed.
If you’re interested in this type of alert, there are literally dozens of services to choose from. One of the most widely used is the Philips Lifeline Medical Alert Service (lifelinesys.com, 800-380-3111) which costs $35 per month, plus an $82 start-up fee. Phillips also offers a new Auto Alert option (for $48 per month) that has fall detection sensors in the SOS button that can automatically summon help without your mom ever having to press a button.
Some other major players in the industry that are a little less expensive (under $30 per month) include: LifeFone (lifefone.com, 877-849-8942), LifeStation (lifestation.com, 877-478-3390), Bay Alarm Medical (bayalarmmedical.com, 877-722-9633), Alert1 (alert-1.com, 888-919-3692), LifeGuardian (lifeguardianmedicalalarms.com, 800-378-2957) and MedicalAlert (medicalalert.com, 800-800-2537).
One other unique product worth consideration is the MediPendant (getmedipendant.com, 888-216-0039) which runs under $35 a month. This system allows your mom to speak and listen to the operator directly through the SOS pendant, versus the base station speaker phone, which often makes for easier communication.
No-Fee Alerts
If you’re looking for a cheaper option, consider a no-fee medical alert device that doesn’t have professional monitoring services. These products, which also come with an “SOS” button and a home base station, are pre-programmed to dial personal contacts (relatives, friends, caregivers or 911) if the SOS button is pushed. Most devices store about four phone numbers, and the system dials each number, one-by-one until a connection is made.  

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