Saturday, April 9, 2016

I’ve Fallen & Can’t Get Up: Medic Alert Devices/Systems Increase Independence

Whether it’s a fear of falling, a sudden onset of a life-threatening symptom, or a charge that wanders, there are ways to reduce and even eliminate concerns using an appropriate life alert device/system, some of which come equipped with GPS. Such items can make all the difference in being able to live independently.

Even with computerized medical records, in emergencies, those with chronic, life-threatening or allergic conditions need ways to provide important information immediately. Medic Alert bracelets can be very helpful and even better are those that come equipped with USBs.

Unfortunately, years of comic routines of “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” make many people self conscious about using an alert system. However there has been significant evolution in devices that make them less cumbersome and noticeable as well as being more responsive. The world of Smart Phones and Fitbits has added a new option, which may be right for some people.

Consider the following:

Wearable Device: Many people don’t want to wear a call device because it’s not attractive or makes them feel old or “disabled.” A client, who was very fashion forward, took her device to a jeweler and had a custom watchband made to replace the one that came with the call button. Alert 1 has specifically designed devices for women, taking cues from current fashion trends. A search on Pinterest  turned up a variety of very cool Medical Alert jewelry ideas, including some amazing ways to carry a USB of medical information in a bracelet. Whether it’s a “call button” or a medical ID alert, there are many ways to create “custom jewelry” that don’t have to draw unwanted attention.

Fitbits are very popular and they will engrave medical alert information on the device. Some people have attached a small charm on their Fitbit to serve a similar purpose. Expect to see a lot more from Fitbit in the months to come that will allow these wearable devices to serve multiple purposes.   

Smart Phone: The world of Apps includes various ways to carry medical information, which can be easily accessed in an emergency via your smart phone (e.g. My Medical ) or tablet. Most Smart phones and tablets come with a preloaded App that allows the user to enter their medical alert information along with other relevant information. On the iPhones the icon is a red heart on a white background.

Whether using a Smart Phone or Cell, Life Alert, offers a system whereby the user registers and can either press an app or speed dial for immediate assistance. One of the advantages of this system is that an operator can “walk” with you if you are in a precarious situation.

For those who refuse to wear a device, but always have their phone or tablet with them, this could be a good option.

Monthly Plans for Med Alert Systems: Using medical alert emergency devices does cost. Charges for equipment and services typically include a setup fee ranging from $50 to $200 and a monthly fee ranging from $30 to $60. Most companies lease their equipment; a few require purchase. Private insurance or Medicare generally does not cover the devices. There are plenty of places to comparison shop on line. Check out’s The Best Medical Alert Systems 2016  for a good overview of how various systems perform, pros and cons, costs etc.

One of the best ways to learn about systems is contacting your local agency on aging and ask them the following:
  Recommendation for what medic alert system works best in your area
• Is a Landline needed?
• Is there a product available through them that may make it more affordable? Is there financial assistance for someone who may not be able to afford the monthly fees?
• Have their been any reported scams pertaining to life alert systems?

Before purchasing a plan:
• Read through the policy carefully so there are no hidden costs and to understand the cancellation policy.
Make sure the provider offers 24/7 customer care (preferably a call center) and technical support.
• Ask how they test their system and how frequently this is done
• Request a 30 day free trial. Will they offer a money back trial period?
• Do not agree to a plan if you’re feeling forced to make a quick or uninformed decision. Review your options with a doctor, close friend, family member or caregiver.

Scammers and “snake oil” salesmen often prey upon Seniors and those with chronic/life threatening conditions. If you receive an unsolicited approached by e-mail, phone or even in person, be wary. Don’t hesitate to call your state’s attorney office to check about a company. Read the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information on Phone Scams.

Finally, regularly check equipment so you know it will function properly if it’s needed.

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