Repeat after me: “It. is. not. realistic. for. me. to. be. by. my. parent’s. side. 24. hours. a. day.”
Now keep saying it until you mean it.
Unless your parents have a stay-at-home nurse (and let’s be honest, who the heck can afford that?!), then you’ll need to get comfortable knowing they won’t have someone constantly at their side, all day, everyday.
Nevertheless, it can make a huge difference to your mental wellbeing if you know they can at least contact someone if and when they need to. While phones designed for seniors are certainly an option, if your mom or dad has fallen or is otherwise unable to access their phone, they’ll need something more reliable.
That’s where medical alert systems come in. From simple pagers to fully certified responders, I’m going to cover everything you need to know to ensure your parents are never more than a button-click away from getting help.
What is a Medical Alert System?
Medical alert systems provide a quick and easy way of getting a hold of someone in an emergency, or even for simple assistance.
The key word here is easy. It shouldn’t take more than a press of a button to call for help. Most devices come in the form of a necklace or pendant for this exact reason. They can be worn around the neck or attached to a belt for easy access. When the time comes, all you need to do is press a button to activate the system.
These devices work in a number of different ways. Some are no more advanced than a doorbell—simple yet effective. Others are designed to dial 911 automatically, or even patch you through to a dedicated help line. There’s even medical alert systems with GPS and fall detection. Deciding which one to get will come down to cost, desired features and the needs of the person using it.
Smart Caregiver Wireless Pager
Let’s start with the basics.
The Smart Caregiver pager is a simple alert system that uses a call button (worn by your mom or dad) and a receiver.
In the case of an emergency, or if your parent simply needs your assistance, all they need to do is push the button on their device, causing an alarm to sound on your end.
You get two alarm tones to choose from – a simple doorbell chime and a full-on, all-hands-on-deck emergency tone. Let’s just say the doorbell chime is the preferred sound for most. There’s unfortunately no volume control, so there’s no reason to give yourself a heart attack every time the thing goes off.
The call buttons come with a lanyard for your parent to wear around their neck. The device itself is a tad big though (roughly 2” across and ¾” thick), so they might not be too thrilled about having to wear it all the time. If that’s the case, a simple pinch-clip is included that allows it to be attached to a belt or other piece of clothing.
A holster is also included that can be used to stick the button to the wall. This is pretty useful when it comes to sleeping, since you can just stick it somewhere within arms reach of their bed instead of having them wear it.
There’s two minor issues that you should be aware of with this alert system. First, if you make use of both call buttons—say, one for your mom and one for your dad—there’s unfortunately no way to tell which button has been pressed. You’ll simply have to go check on them both. Secondly, pressing the call button will only notify the person with the receiver. There’s no immediate way for your parents to tell if their call has been heard. As much as you can assure them they don’t need to worry, you might find they don’t hold too much faith in their new-fangled device.
SadoTech Caregiver Call Button Necklace
This device uses the same pager system as the one above, but with a few differences.
First off, the receiver is designed to be plugged into the wall, meaning you don’t have to keep it on you. To ensure its heard, SadoTech has inluded 4 volume levels, reaching up to 80 db—more than loud enough to hear from anywhere in the house. It also includes 32 alert tones, which to be honest, doesn’t provide much benefit other than being able to switch things up every once in a while.
The “SOS” call button is worn by your parent. The design of this one has the buttons located on either side of a donut shaped case. This makes it less likely for false-alarms to occur, while keeping it simple enough to use.
SadoTech also includes a separate call button on a wall-mounted device. This one basically acts like a doorbell. Attach it to your parents bedside for easy access.
The transmitter button and SOS call button have ranges of 150 meters and 90 meters, respectively, which should be more than enough for those living in the same home or even next door.
There’s really only one downside to this product. Since the receiver is designed to be plugged into the wall, it won’t work if the power goes out—meaning you won’t be able to hear the alarm if the call button is pressed. This is only an issue on your end, so if you experience a power-cut, just make sure to go check on your parents.
Guardian Alert 911 Phone
This medical alert system takes things a step further than a simple pager by connecting to a landline phone in order to call 911. With only a press of a button, your parents will be able to speak directly with an emergency responder. And because it uses your preexisting phone line, there aren’t any monthly fees or contracts.
The distance on this thing is great—about 600 feet from where your phone is located. This gives your parents the freedom to be outside or even next door—perfect for gardening!
To make a call, the button must be pressed for two seconds. This is simply a precautionary feature to avoid accidentally dialing 911. However, unlike the previous two devices, when the call is initiated, the device provides voice confirmation to let your parent know its dialing. This should help put them at ease, especially in an emergency situation.
The call button weighs roughly 1.6 pounds and can be worn around the neck with a lanyard, or attached to a belt with a clip. They state that’s it “splash resistant”, but unfortunately not suitable for shower use.
Battery life is also great. If a call hasn’t been made, the button will last up to A YEAR without needing to replace the batteries. When a 911 call is made, the device will last up to 30 minutes—which is more than long enough for an emergency responder to show up. Just make sure to replace the batteries afterwards.
LogicMark Freedom Alert Emergency System
Having the ability to easily contact 911 is obviously better than nothing at all, but it’s not always necessary when there’s no immediate emergency.
LogicMark also offers system that allows for calls to be made to more than just 911. Their Freedom Alert device can be programmed to dial 4 different numbers, one after another, at the press of a button.
If the first contact doesn’t pick up, it will dial the second, and so on until it loops back to the first again. When someone picks up, they receive a brief automated message indicating the source of the call and asking them to press ‘5’ in order to stop the system from trying the next number. This is just to ensure answering machines don’t get mistaken for an actual person.
There’s also two other settings. One will call 911 after going through the four custom contacts. The other calls 911 directly.
Battery lasts for 1 hour of talk time and 4 to 6 months on standby. 600 foot call distance, water resistant (good for showers, but not for baths), and comes with a lanyard, belt clip and wrist strap.
GreatCall’s Lively Mobile Waterproof Medical Alert Device
Alright. Now we’re getting into more advanced systems.
With GreatCall, you don’t just get a device. You get a 24/7, IAED-certified response service at the push of a button.
Like the Guardian alert phone, the Lively Mobile acts as a 2-way speaker. Although in this case, no landline is required—the device acts as cellphone, is completely mobile and works nationwide. The main difference here is that instead of calling 911 directly, you get connected to a IAED-certified agent that is trained to help in all sorts of situations, not just emergencies.
You might be thinking this is silly at first. Why deal with a middle-man if you can call 911 directly? Well, 911 isn’t always going to be necessary. Lets say your mom or dad finds themselves in an unfamiliar part of town and needs help getting home. Or if they’ve locked themselves out of their car. With GreatCall, the agent will be able to assess the situation and either alert 911, or simply provide assistance themselves. This even includes contacting you or another caregiver in order to respond directly.
What really makes this device useful is its built-in GPS. This means a GreatCall agent will be able to locate your mom or dad and provide you or the 911 dispatcher with their exact location. An app is also included that lets you locate the device directly. This isn’t as accurate though, as they location only gets updated every hour or so.
The battery on this device lasts roughly 24 hours. If the signal is poor, you might find this time is reduced a bit, since it has to work harder to maintain a connection. When it comes time to charge, all you need to do is attach it the included charging dock. A full charge only takes about 90 minutes.
Lets talk a bit about the app mentioned above. Called “Link”, this app is available for download on your phone or any device with a web browser, and lets you stay up-to-speed with your parent’s well-being. It’ll message you if your mom or dad has activated their device, and shows you where they’ve been in case you need to find them quickly. Yes, I know this might raise some questions around privacy. I was thinking the same thing when reviewing this product. However, the GPS location is only available to you, the GreatCall agent, and 911. I think most would appreciate having this ability if it means being able to respond more quickly to an accident. Nevertheless, it’s a discussion that you’ll need to have with your parents.
The Link app can also be set to alert others in case of an accident, so if you’re out of town or otherwise unable to respond, someone else can take your place.
The device itself can be worn around the neck with the provided lanyard, or attached to a belt with a simple clip. Its roughly 1.4 ounces, which should be light enough to not be bothersome. And while not suitable for being completely submerged in water, it is water-resistant—meaning wearing it in the shower is fine.
Because this is a full service, there is a monthly fee associate with this alert system.
GreatCall provides three packages to choose from.
The highest package includes a fall-detection feature. Basically if your mom or dad were to fall, the device would detect it and automatically call an agent. Note that the device has to be worn around the neck for this to work.