25 Jul August 2021 – Case Manager
Medical Alert Systems
In the late 80s and early 90s when the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” catchphrase became famous, there were a lot less choices for medical alert systems. In 2021, choosing a medical alert system for yourself or a loved one can be a daunting task, one that some compare to shopping for a cell phone plan. Systems have evolved and while it can make it confusing, there are also many options and features to meet your individual needs. A couple years ago I worked with a man who told me that his family said he should get a “911 button” to wear around his neck in case he fell. I asked him several questions including whether he thought he needed a medical alert system, why he needed it and what he wanted to happen if he fell or needed help. This led to an important conversation with his family. Prior to purchasing a system or signing a contract, I recommend asking yourself these questions:
Do I need a medical alert system? The first thing that comes to mind is usually related to falls. Besides being at risk for falls, there are benefits of having a medical alert system such as:
- Taking medication with side effects
- Feeling unsafe or anxious about living alone and how will you get help if you need it
- Having no family nearby
- Experiencing confusion or having a health condition that could result in wandering
- Having safety concerns when you leave your house and want a way to call for help.
What is available in my area? Medical alert systems usually connect either through a landline or cellular service. If you don’t have good cell service where you live, you may need to go through a landline. Other things to consider:
- In-home range (how far does it reach)
- Monitoring available (24/7 monitoring)
- Procedures if activated (who is notified first and what follow up happens).
What additional features are important to me and my safety? There are a number of features available through medical alerts systems. Here are some to consider:
- Automatic fall detection
- Emergency call button to 911
- Two-way communication
- Base unit and/or wearable device
- GPS tracking
- Spouse monitoring
- Wellness checks/Medical monitoring
- Medication reminders
- Activity tracking
What am I comfortable using? Everyone has their own comfort level with technology. It is important to feel comfortable with using a device or system. If the system is too complicated, you may not be able to send a signal or communicate if you need help.
Will Medicare or insurance cover the cost of a medical alert system? If you have Medicare Part C or supplemental insurance, there is a possibility it could be covered, however, it depends on your carrier and policy. Medicare A & B do not cover this service.
How much can I afford to pay toward a medical alert system? Medical alert systems range greatly in monthly costs and may include additional fees such as:
- Annual fees
- Shipping and activation fees
- Upfront device fees
Who do I want called in an emergency? In the event that you need to activate your medical alert system, either the monitoring center or a medical professional can call your emergency contacts to notify them. This procedure is something that you will set up ahead of time.
How would emergency responders get into my home? Good question. This is also something that would be set up ahead of time. If you live in a single family home, there is the option of having a lock box that contains your key so that EMS can get in. If you live in an apartment building, the building manager may have ideas about this.
What else do I need to consider? Depending on the company there may be differences in money-back guarantees, warranties for equipment and contract requirements.
Where to start? Talking to friends can be a great way to get information from people who already use a medical alert system. Talking with your family or your support people specifically is an important first step as well.
In January 2021, US News 360 Reviews conducted an unbiased review of medical alert systems which can be found at:
For more information visit: https://www.usnews.com/360-reviews/medical-alert-system/how-to-choose.
Need assistance? Contact Julie at 608-848-0440.
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Be well! Julie Larson, Lead Case Manager