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Do Medical Alert Systems Work Outside The Home ?

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If you, like me, have been looking to find some kind of medical alert system for your elderly parent, your first question will be “Where is my parent going to need the alert system ?” And then, if they are active, “Where can they go with the medical alert system, and does it extend beyond the home ?”

 

Medical alert systems will almost all work outside the home, it is just a question of how far –

  • In-home landline systems will give coverage around the home of roughly 300 – 1200 ft, on average, from the in-home base station depending on wall thickness and the model of base station
  • Mobile medical alert systems will work anywhere they can capture their cellular network signal

 

What do I mean by outside the home ?

If you mean, “Will I be covered in my garden around my home ?”, then you will find that, unless you own a ranch, most gardens are at least in part covered by a traditional In-Home medical alert system.

Most In-Home base stations have a maximum range of at least 400ft before the help button loses the signal, and will no longer send an alert, and some go as far as 1300ft.

Do note that thickness and number of walls may make the systems less effective than advertised – normally the distances stated are “open field” which means without obstacles.

If you mean “I want a medical alert system I can take to use at my daughter’s house as well as at mine”, and you only mean to use it in and around the home and garden, then there are also In-Home systems that you can take and use temporarily at locations other than your own home.

You just have to remember to let the monitoring system and contacts know that you are going away, and any alerts will not be to your home address, but rather at the temporary location.

If you mean “Are there medical alert systems that I can take with me on the go, to the shops for example ?” The answer is “yes”, and these are called Mobile medical alert systems.

Mobile medical alert systems

Mobile medical alert systems don’t generally have a Base Station, like the in-home systems, as they connect directly with the cellular networks.

Anywhere you can get a signal, you will be able to use your Mobile medical alert device.

The Mobile system usually comprises –

 

  • a charging dock where the device will be recharged as required
  • a hand held, or worn device, with a “Help” button and incorporated microphone and speakers if it is a monitored system – the unmonitored systems do not always have a two-way talk function, and often only send texts, and or recorded voice messages
  • some companies are offering Mobile medical alert systems for which the device is also a fully functional cellular phone with an additional emergency button and the GPS Tracking functions added, and all linked to a monitoring service
  • some systems also give an additional pendant with a call button which you can wear, and if you can’t reach the hand held device you just push the button on the pendant which will send a signal to your mobile device which will then make the alert call
  • the majority of the devices have GPS Location Tracking
  •  Fall Detection is often offered as an optional function, sometimes at extra cost
  • there are also Mobile medical alert buttons which are carried along with a smartphone, and the button has all the sensors for falls and GPS tracking, and when it is pushed, or automatically senses a fall, it will trigger the smartphone which will use an app to call either monitoring, or a pre-selected group of contacts to call in emergency
  • some mobile devices are a made in the style of a smartwatch and will have a help button, two-way talk communications, GPS Tracking, and other options that each offers built in
  • monitored mobile medical alerts often offer apps with lots of functions to compliment the device, and to help the caregivers and family, such as tracking histories, calendar appointments, medical reminders and more – allowing the families to check in any time on the app on their smartphones and to see what their loved one has been doing, to set up reminders etc. for their loved one
  • unmonitored mobile devices often also use apps which have to be downloaded to smartphones, so that the system can be coordinated.

Unmonitored  Mobile Medical alert systems

 

With the unmonitored systems, the mobile devices are far less varied than the monitored systems.

Some mobile devices will be paired with an app for smartphones and this will coordinate the system alert calls.

With the app, you indicate your contacts and their numbers which the system will be calling in an emergency.

Not all the unmonitored devices have two-way talk communications on the device, and may only send a text, or an automated voice message to your contacts with the medical alert.

The message will give your GPS location and say you have a medical emergency.

The mobile systems which have two-way talk will allow you to speak with your contact when they answer their phone.

With the unmonitored systems, there is absolutely no guarantee that the calls will be answered quickly.

The device will keep dialing through the numbers of the contacts until someone answers.

The system will also send texts to each of the contacts. You just have to hope that they respond quickly, and well…….that they know what they are doing.

The differences between monitored and unmonitored mobile medical alert systems

 

  • the monitored systems have trained staff in call centers 24/7, who have your medical information in front of them on a screen
  • in a monitored system your emergency alert will be dealt with immediately
  • the monitored systems will send emergency responders immediately if it is a medical emergency
  • the monitored centers can send your medical information to the emergency responders, so they arrive on the scene knowing about any pre-existing conditions which are relevant
  • with the unmonitored system, the response depends on how quickly the user’s contacts (friends, family, caregivers) are to see that they have a message or a call
  • with unmonitored systems, you have to hope that your contacts who receive the alert will react effectively in an emergency
  • with unmonitored systems, they won’t work if the user’s contacts switch off their phones
  • with the unmonitored systems, you cannot send the user’s medical information to any emergency services that may be needed – it has to be explained

Medical alert systems with GPS tracking and fall detection

 

I have already mentioned a number of times –

 

  • GPS
  • Fall Detection

 

GPS Tracking

GPS tracking is very important as it allows an individual who has an emergency, but who cannot speak, to be located instantly, and then for the coordinates to be sent to the emergency responders, or contacts of the system user if it is an unmonitored system.

Mobile medical alert systems may also have apps which allow the user’s family or caregivers to see where they are and where they have been using GPS tracking information.

GPS tracking can also be very helpful in cases where wandering is a problem.

In such cases, something known as “GEO Fencing” can be deployed to send an alert whenever a person has wanders out of a defined area.

Of course if you lose the cellular network coverage, the GPS will not work. 

Fall Detection

Automatic fall detection is also available with most mobile medical alert systems, and if it doesn’t come as part of the basic system, it will usually be an option as an add-on.

With automatic fall detection, if the user falls, sensors will send out an emergency signal as soon as they detect a sudden and hard fall.

This means that if the user is unconscious after a fall, a medical alert is still sent, and the GPS can be used to locate the user.

It is important to say that the detectors cannot detect all falls, and slower sliding falls may go undetected – there is a margin of error with these.

Secondly, the system has to have cellular coverage to send the alert once the fall has been detected.

Mobile Medical alerts, which are also phones

 

These are a combination of cellular/mobile telephones and mobile alert devices.

The phones have all the usual functions and have been adapted to make them easier for seniors to use.

On top of the usual functionality, they have a button which calls directly to the monitoring centers.

The phone devices also incorporate the GPS tracking technologies, so that if a person is not able to communicate, they can be easily located.

Popular mobile medical alert systems in the US

 

GreatCall

 

  • Lively Flip   (GPS tracking is part of the phone, a separate lanyard is worn for fall detection and is an optional extra)
  • Jitterbug Smart2   (GPS tracking is part of the phone, a separate lanyard is worn for fall detection and is an optional extra)
  • Lively Mobile Plus  (GPS tracking is included, Fall detection is an optional extra on one plan)
  • Lively Wearable 2   (works with your smartphone – uses phone for GPS tracking, Fall detection is an optional extra)

 

Bay Alarm Medical

 

  • On The Go – GPS Button   (Fall detection is an optional extra)
  • On The Go – SOS Smartwatch   (GPS tracking is included, but no Fall detection)
  • On The Go – In Car Alert   (GPS tracking is included)

 

Medical Guardian

 

  • Mobile Guardian    (GPS tracking included, Fall detection optional extra)
  • Mini Guardian    (GPS tracking included, Fall detection optional extra)
  • Active Guardian    (GPS tracking included, Fall detection optional extra)
  • Freedom Guardian    (GPS tracking included)

 

MobileHelp

 

  • Mobile Solo    (GPS included, Fall detection is an optional extra)
  • MobileDuo    (GPS is included, Fall detection is an optional extra)

 

Philips Lifeline

 

  • GoSafe 2    (GPS location and Fall detection)

 

Life Station

 

  • Mobile LTE Medical Alert With GPS    (Fall detection is an optional extra)

 

LifeFone

 

  • At-home & On-The-Go GPS     (Fall detection is an optional extra)
  • At-Home & On-The-Go GPS Voice-In-Pendant     (Fall detection is an optional extra)

 

ResponseNow

 

  • Belle    (no GPS Tracking, no fall detection)
  • Belle+    (GPS and Fall detection included)

 

SureSafe

 

  • SureSafeGo Anywhere

 

Popular mobile medical alert systems in the UK –

 

SureSafe

 

  • SureSafeGo Anywhere

 

Telecare 24

 

  • Careline Anywhere

Monitor Go

 

  • MonitorGo

 

Pebbell

 

  • Pebbell GPS Tracker With SOS Button

 “Must have” features of a mobile medical alert system ?

 

Here’s a list of the essential features that you should be looking for in a medical alert system

 

  • Waterproof  – so it can be worn at all time
  • you will want to get extra “help” buttons with very long battery life – some systems have lives of 5 yrs before they need replacing – if the system offers them
  • you want to have the choice of both a wristband and a pendant for any extra “help” buttons
  • any devices to be worn must be comfortable and lightweight
  • the cellular/mobile network  must have an adequately strong signal in your area, and good coverage everywhere you intend to use it
  • Make sure that the system has a Money-Back Guarantee – most companies give a 30-day Money-Back Guarantee, but do check
  • check that devices which need to be charged don’t take too long to charge, and that they have a good period of usage when charged
  • see if the device has a back-up button you can wear at home when the device is on charge, otherwise you have nothing to wear while your unit is charging – these extra buttons will signal the mobile device to call the monitoring center or your family, from the charging cradle
  • check that any charging stations work for at least 24hrs in the case of a power failure
  • as it is for going out, I would get automatic fall detection in case you can’t move, or are unconscious

 

Mistakes to avoid when buying a mobile medical alert system

 

  • don’t get a long term contract
  • test the device you have bought immediately, as you only get 30 days to return them with most companies
  • be aware of what you are paying for – do you own the equipment or are you leasing it ?
  • if you are leasing the equipment, you mustn’t forget that you will have to return it
  • are you installing the system yourself, or is it a professional installation, and what are the fees for installation ?
  • are there any fees for the network activation ?
  • Some companies charge an installation fee even when you do it
  • is any specialist equipment needed for the installation ?
  • be aware of what is an added extra before you speak to a sales person
  • if you have hearing problems do say this, and do check the devices straight away when you receive them, so you have plenty of time to return them
  • if you have monitoring, try to be sure that the monitoring center agents replying to your emergency alerts speak English as a first language, so there is no confusion
  • do check that you have two-way talk communications on the mobile device, as some only send texts and automated voice messages

 

Conclusion

 

Mobile medical alerts systems do work outside the home, and can go anywhere that you can get network coverage.

There are lots of choices to pick from, and there are plenty of reviews out there to help you make your choices.

If you get your elderly parent to feel confident when they go out and are active, they can keep fitter, socialize more, keep their minds stimulated and stay more independent. 

I am not saying you have to have a mobile medical alert system for this, but if it can boost your parent’s confidence and get them to go out more, it can only be a good thing.

 

I’m Gareth and I’m the owner of Looking After Mom and Dad.com

I have been a caregiver for over 10 yrs and share all my tips here.

Gareth Williams

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