Are you worried about falling when you’re alone? Perhaps you’re a caregiver concerned with the welfare of the person in your care. Medical alert systems—where the simple press of a call button can summon emergency help or contact a caregiver or family member—can offer reassurance.
After all, falls among seniors are a serious public health concern. According to the Canadian government, falls remain the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations among Canadian seniors—and between 20% and 30% of seniors fall each year. Falls and associated outcomes not only harm the injured individuals but also affect family, friends, care providers and the health care system. However, we do know that these personal and economic costs can be avoided through injury prevention and monitoring.
Besides the eight questions you should always ask when buying a medical alert system, the wide variety of features, service options, and fees open to Canadian seniors and their caregivers make it challenging to figure out what’s best—after all, several companies offer competing solutions.
We offer up the expert advice you need before you purchase a medical alert system, and a breakdown of the features for which you should keep an eye out. We also review our top pick for a medical alert system.
Who Should Consider Medical Alert Systems?
A medical alert system provides peace of mind. Those who wear the devices can continue to pursue independent, active lifestyles and remain in their own homes, while caregivers can be reassured that help is a push of a button away.
Whether for you or a loved one, consider overall health. Is falling a concern? Do you or your loved ones take medications that influence your energy levels or balance? A medical alert system for seniors with fall detection, such as TELUS LivingWell Companion, could be a solution to ensure they get the help they need, whether they call for help or not. So, when is it time for a medical alert system, and who do they best serve?
1. Senior Canadians
For seniors who wish to live at home longer, medical alert systems can provide valuable security, especially for those who live alone.
2. Individuals Prone To Falls
Individuals prone to falls are also vulnerable and should consider a system. Some are calibrated to detect falls and alert a response centre when the victim is not responsive.
3. People Living With Disabilities
Advanced medical alert systems come with location monitoring capability that can help persons living with disabilities. For example, in case of emergencies, systems can locate a non-responsive patient who has wandered away from home and cannot find their way back.
What Is A Medical Alert System?
A medical alert system, also referred to as a personal emergency response system, is a medical device that connects individuals in a medical emergency with a live response centre. The system typically consists of three components: a base unit, communication and monitoring capabilities—and a portable ‘help’ button.
1. A Base Unit
Different companies offer varying designs for base units, but the most common ones look like your typical answering machine and are installed centrally in one’s home. A base unit is a critical component that links the user and the response centre when you press your emergency button.
Base units offer various designs but function in a similar way. Once you pick a provider for your medical alert system, you’ll receive a package with all the components for your system and a setup manual. Installation is straightforward. Even so, some providers charge a small installation fee, which you can generally opt out of before ordering.
2. Communication And Monitoring
Medical alert systems are designed to offer clear two-way communication and monitoring functionality that helps the response agent track down your location. The base unit has an in-built speaker and microphone, as well as cellular technology to facilitate communication, and GPS for monitoring.
3. Help Button
The help button or emergency button is strategically placed on the base unit and on an accompanying wearable device. You or your loved one may simply press the button to summon help. When the button is activated, the base unit dials up the response centre which will then connect you with a live emergency response agent in ~20–40 seconds.
How To Choose A Medical Alert Device
There are dozens of Medical Alert Devices in the market which make it increasingly difficult to choose the solution that best fits your situation. Picking the best medical alert system for you or your loved one depends on your activity levels, budget, and extra features required (like automatic fall detection). We recommend taking your time and exploring your options when you start the process. The best medical alert systems are flexible enough to fit most lifestyles.
Do You Need Protection At Home, On the Go, Or Both?
You can order an in-home or mobile medical alert system depending on your mobility. If you rarely leave your home, then an in-home system might be ideal; however, in-home medical devices are less practical if you have a fairly active lifestyle.
A mobile system is portable, and you can carry it with you or have it installed in your vehicle if you spend a lot of time on wheels. It is equipped with cellular and GPS technologies to connect you to a response centre and precisely pinpoint your physical location respectively.
Do You Need Automatic Fall Detection?
Automatic fall detection is a feature that’s typically built into a fall alert monitor that you wear. These systems feature detection sensors (multiple accelerometers and processors) that can detect between normal activity and an actual fall. By continuously measuring the speed of movements in all directions, the fall detector can compare what it senses to what it considers an actual fall.
How Much Does My Budget Allow For Monthly Expenses?We know that cost is a major consideration when shopping for a good medical alert system but prices among companies vary widely. That’s because not all systems are created equal—they use different technologies and systems and also have different terms and conditions. For instance, some of them require contracts, while others operate on a month-to-month basis. When you shop for a medical alert system, you need to be aware of equipment costs, installation and activation fees, and monthly monitoring fees. The equipment cost refers to the cost of the device which usually includes a base unit and wearable. Installation and activation fees also vary widely, with some companies charging a one-time activation of the system. Lastly, companies typically charge monthly monitoring fees.
Editor’s Choice: TELUS LivingWell CompanionThere are a number of medical alert systems providers in Canada, each promising to deliver peace of mind, independence and security. However, the quality of equipment, reliability and service delivery differ among them. Of the many options in the market, we recommend the TELUS LivingWell Companion. This device offers the best overall value in terms of cost and functionality. TELUS is a longstanding provider of medical tech solutions and has been trusted by over 12 million Canadians. The company offers Canadian seniors access to 24/7 support, ensuring you get help whenever you need it. The LivingWell Companion comes in three versions: LivingWell Companion™ Home (Basic), LivingWell Companion™ Home (Fall Detection), and LivingWell Companion™ On The Go (GPS). Also, you can get the device on Apple Watch. Produced by a reputable provider, the LivingWell Companion series are trusted devices that will keep you or your loved ones safe regardless of where they reside in Canada. Their subscriptions are fairly priced and you’re guaranteed value for your money.
Plans start from $30/mo on a 1-year term—that’s $1 a day for greater peace of mind.
- Fall Detection Feature (Optional)
- Access To 24/7 Emergency Support
- No Shipping Fees
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How Much Does A Medical Alert System Cost?The cost of a medical alert system varies widely from one provider to another and is dependent on several factors including features and portability. Devices equipped with GPS, Automatic Fall Detection, and mobile cellular technologies fetch higher prices, while basic at-home installed devices go for lower rates. However, the rates range from between $19 and $65 per month.
2. Will My Insurance Pay for a Medical Alert System?Most insurance providers don’t cover the cost of your medical alert system, but some do. Find out from your insurance provider if they offer such coverage by calling your agent or checking the information provided on their website.
3. Do I Need to Purchase Special Equipment?In most cases, medical alert providers won’t sell their equipment to you. Instead, they will charge you a monthly subscription fee that includes the cost of leasing the whole system and professional monitoring. As such, upon cancellation of your subscription, you will be required to return the equipment in the same pristine condition as received.
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