Grandchildren, retirement, and plenty of free time are all part of getting older, but so are arthritis, false teeth-and potential medical emergencies. Besides heart attacks and chronic illnesses, which become more prevalent with age, accidents and falls in the home become not only more common but more dangerous as people get older. People living alone are at even greater risk, since they may not be able to call for help. If you or your loved ones are concerned about possible medical emergencies, you may want to look into getting a medical alarm.
Medical alarms consist of a wireless medical alarm button, attached to a pendant or bracelet for easy access; an alarm console, which is connected to your home phone line; and a medical alert service, or special call center. When the button is pressed, it sends an alert via the alarm console to the emergency call center, and a trained staff member calls the house. If no one answers, the medical alert staff summons the appropriate emergency services.
Medical alarms are also excellent for handicapped, diabetics, and expectant mothers.
Types of Medical Alarms
There are two basic types of medical alarms. One is a telephone-based system, meaning that the alarm button, when pressed, sends a signal to a special unit connected to your phone, which dials a series of preprogrammed emergency numbers and plays a recorded help message. The other type dials a monitoring center with live operators who deal with your specific needs.
The advantage of the former is that it's a lot cheaper-it only entails a one-time equipment and installation cost, whereas the latter involves an ongoing service cost (i.e., monthly fees). Depending on the system itself and whether you pay a fixed or per-call rate, it could cost you anywhere from $22.95 a month to $19.95 a week.
However, the monitoring center is much more reliable than the automated system, since an automated dialer carries the risk that some-or even all-of the numbers won't work. Also, with a monitoring center, you can request the additional service of daily checkup calls-a live operator who calls you every day to make sure you're okay. So if you can afford the service costs, the security of knowing someone's always there to answer your call is well worth the extra money.
What to Look For in a Medical Alarm
When looking for a medical alarm, there are a few questions you'll want to ask:
- Does the medical alarm company offer 24-hr. service?
- How long do you have to wait for someone to pick up? Ideally, you should get an answer-from a human being-within two rings. You should also make sure they have a backup system in case the line is busy.
- How fast is the medical service response time?
- How is the response team trained? Are they certified to handle all medical situations?
- What if the electricity shuts down? Does the console have a rechargeable backup battery?
- Is the transmitter waterproof?
- What is the transmitter's range? Can it communicate with the console from anywhere in the house? Is it two-way?
- Does the console hook up to your existing phone line, or do you need to install an extra line? (It also pays to check with your burglar alarm company, since some companies offer a medical alarm service.)
- If there's a monthly fee, how much is it? Are there other charges (setup, activation, termination fees, etc.)? Is there a guarantee on parts, labor, services, etc.?
- What is the company's certification? Is it UL-listed, FM-approved, and cleared by the Defense Department?
Once you've asked these questions, assess your medical and financial needs and decide which medical alarm system is right for you. A medical alarm is a convenient, effective way to make sure you feel safe and secure in your home. Remember, your health is precious-you want to make sure you keep it.