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“Help I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up” - The Truth About Medical Alert Pendants

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More Than Just a Funny Punchline

"Help. I've fallen and I cant get up." This famous, memorable line from TV advertising for life alert in the 1980's has become part of many comedy routines over the years. It was so poorly done that, yes, it was comical. But the subject it dealt with isn't.

Medical alert systems have been around since the 1970's and have saved thousands of seniors from unnecessary suffering and sometimes fatal medical situations. Medical alert systems for seniors, also known as personal emergency response systems, offer a fast and easy way for seniors who live alone to get help during an emergency such as a fall, a medical issue or other event that requires an immediate response. Most plans offer a 24/7 call center as well as notification of designated contacts when incidents occur.

Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Medical Alert Pendant

Unlike back in the 70's when there was only one option, today you have numerous services to choose from and features tailored to your specific situation. Here are some factors to consider when researching services:

At Home or On-the-Go

At Home or On-the-Go The biggest decision is where the pendant will work. Base models rely on a telephone landline and are limited to use in the home (and sometimes outside in the yard). Two-way communication is limited to the user's proximity to the receiver base unit (which is plugged into the phone outlet) in order to communicate back and forth with the call center. I view this as a significant limitation that diminishes the value of the service.

Alternatively, an on-the-go solution allows the system to work wherever your loved one goes where there is cell service. It uses its own cellular service plan and is about $10 extra per month. The other benefit is that most support two-way communication without the need for proximity to the base station. An additional benefit of an on the go solution is a GPS tracker that helps locate your loved one. This is particularly helpful for those that may wander away from home due to dementia.

Note: Ask the provider what cellular network the company uses and whether your location is supported. This is especially important for rural clients where cellular connections are severely limited.

Automatic Fall Detection

Most base models do not include this feature which is actually very important in most situations. We have found that with many of our clients after a fall, they become confused, disoriented, injured or unconscious. In this type of situation, the injured person is unable to push the call button, but the detection system alerts a call center of the fall. They can then attempt communication with the client and determine the best course of action from there.

Pendant or Bracelet?

This is really a personal choice. Each has their own pros and cons, but it does appear that some on-the-go solutions require the pendant and do not support a wrist bracelet. Do your research to determine the best option for your particular situation.

Transmitter Range & Battery

At-home, landline-based systems have to communicate with a base station and therefore have a limited range from pendant to the base station. This range may be encumbered by walls in the home despite the distance, so it's important to test the system if you go with one of these base models. On-the-go solutions do not require a base station and therefore the only range limitation is the quality of the cellular coverage.

Battery life of the pendant is an issue regardless of the solution which unfortunately is one of the drawbacks of these systems. When removed from the body to recharge, seniors often fail to put the device back on. It is not uncommon for seniors that have medical response systems to not be wearing them at the time of a fall. To assure the user is always wearing their device an option is to purchase a second pendant so that one is always being worn while the other is charging. It's a worthwhile investment to improve the probability that the pendant will be functioning properly in an emergency.

What are the Associated Costs?

Shipping, Installation, Monthly Cost, Contract lengthMost plans range from $25-$55/month depending on the features. In today's competitive market, you should be able to get free shipping, support on installation and you should never need to sign a long-term contract. Price breaks are sometimes given to those willing to commit to a year or more, although billing usually remains monthly. Many companies will allow for a 30-day full refund to try the service.

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An Easier Way to Obtain a Medical Alert Pendant with Homecare California

Homecare California qualifying clients are reimbursed up to $35. We work with Stanford Hospital's Local Lifeline program. We believe it's one of the best solutions available in the Bay Area. Even if you don't use our services, you should seriously consider a system for your elderly loved one. We would be happy to facilitate coordination with Stanford Hospital's program if you want to explore a Lifeline service.


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