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Medical Alert Devices
Old 03-15-2014, 11:47 AM   #1
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Medical Alert Devices

A new article in AARP magazine about medical alert devices got me thinking about buying one for my mother. Mother is in good shape, still lives independently, still drives, but she lives alone and I worry that something could happen to her.

I have looked into what is available now and it is a lot more than just "help me I've Fallen" type devices. There are GPS devices that can track someone if they are lost or wondered away. There are also devices that will activate if you fall and cannot push a button. Some of the devices will contact a family by cell phone in addition to alerting authorities. Of course, all of these have monthly fees and some also have activation fees.

Anyone have any experience/suggestions?

Thanks, Jo Ann
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Old 03-15-2014, 11:48 AM   #2
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I forgot to add that my mother is in her mid-80s.

Jo Ann
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Old 03-15-2014, 12:05 PM   #3
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I have been looking and there are now smart phone wrist watches. Since these have voice actuated dialing they could be set up to call 911 or someone if (for example) they hear mayday repeated twice. Now I don't know if the watch smartphones have motion sensors, so that they could detect if they are being worn and also that there was no movement for some time and call for help (with a new app of course).

One other area would be motion detectors, for example if there is no motion in a any of the bathrooms for more than x hours, then call for help, (or a water flow detector if no water flows for Y hours call for help, in addition that could also say that if water flows continuously for more than Z hours call for help)
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Old 03-15-2014, 12:38 PM   #4
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My Dad (85 at the time) had one of these when he came home from rehab after breaking his hip. The device was fine and worked when he needed it. Unfortunately, our plan of what to do if he needed help was poorly thought out.

My sister lives close by so she was his first step contact. When the Lifeline people tried to call her she couldn't hear her phone ringing while asleep upstairs. I was the next one to call but I am 30 miles away, we were having a snowstorm and I had given my key to Dad's home health aide who was starting the next day. So the Lifeline people called Dad's local fire department who came and helped him. They didn't have to break in, his 24 hours gatehouse/security folks had a master key.

Later I found out my sister takes Ambien and would not have been able to drive in the middle of the night.

The device worked fine when needed, I could even call my Dad and talk to him on speaker phone while he was on the floor waiting for the rescue squad and I could hear when the squad got to him.

Having a medical alert device can be an excellent idea if you have a realistic plan as to what will happen in the event that it's used. Our plan failed at many levels. None of us knew that the folks in the gatehouse had a master key, but the rescue squad knew that. We learned a lot that night.
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Old 03-15-2014, 12:58 PM   #5
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My Mom broke her hip at 88 years old. She lives alone, about 6 miles from me. She is 93 now, and she is very independent...can do almost everything but drive....

The day she broke her hip, I was at my own home getting ready to get on the mower to cut the grass, a three hour chore. I was getting dressed, the phone rang, I saw her number on the called ID and I thought "I'll call back after I get the lawn done...."

Just at the last second before the phone stopped ringing, I picked it up, and Mom was lying on her bedroom floor, her hip broken, and she was wedged between the bed and her bureau. Luckily she had set the handset to her phone down on the bed as she was in the process of getting dressed, (she's in the habit of carrying it everywhere so she doesn't have to run for the phone..)

She was able to pull the blanket towards herself to get the handset, so she could call me......


I think to this day what if I had got on the mower and mowed for three hours...she could have lain there and died.....I called 9-1-1 and met them there. The house was locked-if she had called them, they would have had to break the door down....but because she was partially dressed, she would not have called them due to modesty....

Anyway....after she got home from the hospital, we got one of those devices. She wears it around her neck. When the power goes out at her house, they call me. We test the device monthly... It costs 25.00 per month.

I would recommend it highly. Things can happen so quickly...

We also hid a key so if something were to happen the emergency services could get in....but of course I don't care if they DO have to break the door down......

I don't know if those devices work if you don't have a landline....she does have a landline, but that's because she is afraid to "learn" how to use a cell phone...

Just make sure you get a device that they have to wear (like around the neck or on the wrist...) because in a fall, a cell phone could be flung out of reach....
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Old 03-15-2014, 09:41 PM   #6
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Lcountz, what brand did your mother have?

Thanks for the info Jo Ann
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Old 03-15-2014, 10:50 PM   #7
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Just make sure you get a device that they have to wear (like around the neck or on the wrist...) because in a fall, a cell phone could be flung out of reach....
This is a very important point. When I fainted and hit my head at the gym a few months ago, my iPhone (which was very firmly clipped to the waistband of my gym shorts) went flying at least 20 feet away. I would not have believed it, but that really does happen. Had I been alone, and had I broken a hip or leg, I would not have been able to reach it.
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Old 03-16-2014, 07:56 AM   #8
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Thanks for posting the subject.
A reminder for me to dig out a medical alert device that I bought for $2 at a resale shop about 10 years ago. Never got around to programming it.
In a way, the best of all worlds... inexpensive first, then no monthly fee. Has two panic buttons and a necklace button.
It connects to any phone line in the house. A small console with a wired phone.
The panic buttons trigger the phone to begin dialing four or five different pre-planned numbers... one at a time, until someone answers... the last number being 911.
The console is best placed in the center of the house, so that the built in sensitive microphone can be heard if the caller is in another room. The person receiving the call must be aware that the emergency system exists. When the system is activated, and the call is answered, the person receiving the call hears your pre-recorded short message.... "This is (your name) calling from my emergency alert phone... If I'm able, please stay onthe line, and I'll explain... If you don't get a response, please send help".
Works best if you have close by friends or relatives who you can rely on for help.
I believe there are several current systems that work this way, but haven't checked.

In our mobile home community in Florida, many residents have opted for a pendant remote that triggers the post lamp... (one in front of every home)... to flash on and off continuously... both to alert community members of an emergency, and also to provide ambulance or police responders to locate the home easily. This is also an inexpensive, one time expense, of about $15.

BTW... ditto on the "hide a key" kind of access. Five minutes taken to break into a locked home, could make a big difference.
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Old 03-17-2014, 02:20 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by golftrek View Post
A new article in AARP magazine about medical alert devices got me thinking about buying one for my mother. Mother is in good shape, still lives independently, still drives, but she lives alone and I worry that something could happen to her.

I have looked into what is available now and it is a lot more than just "help me I've Fallen" type devices. There are GPS devices that can track someone if they are lost or wondered away. There are also devices that will activate if you fall and cannot push a button. Some of the devices will contact a family by cell phone in addition to alerting authorities. Of course, all of these have monthly fees and some also have activation fees.

Anyone have any experience/suggestions?

Thanks, Jo Ann
I just saw that article it's interesting. Would mom be open to this technology, or see it as an intrusion on her privacy?
Best wishes,
MRG
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Old 03-17-2014, 02:28 PM   #10
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We had one for Dad like imoldernu describes for $2 where it calls programmed numbers and then 911 for fail safe.

Problem was that Dad forgot how to use it. He'd put the pendant on and then not know what it was for. So then he stopped putting the pendant on. So the device was useless.

This was when Dad was still driving so we thought he was pretty independent. He just had a hard time with *anything* electronic.

The upshot? Be careful with any of these devices if your loved one has dementia. They may not be able to use it. You should practice with them, much like a fire drill. They need to demonstrate that they can use it.
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Old 03-17-2014, 02:53 PM   #11
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One possibility would be a GSM smartphone watch. You put in a sim card and it will call out. It does need to be charged about once a day however. It can do voice actuated dialing as well, so she would not have to learn the details of the phone (unless she wanted to). They seem to run between 100 and 300 dollars on amazon. (By default its screen looks like a digital watch)

Looking a bit further they are developing a bluetooth pendant for a smartphone: http://www.fashioningtech.com/profil...ewelry-pendant

Depending on the range you need around the house this might also work.(It is still in developement)
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Old 03-17-2014, 03:10 PM   #12
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I think my mother would wear one of these devices if it is not too complicated AND if I paid for it. Mother is in good shape and her mind is sharp but she did fall while walking last year and had to get stitches.

My mother and 6 of her girlfriends (ages 70s and 80s) just got back from a trip to Los Vegas and when I asked her what they did she said "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas". Maybe if she wears a medical alert device I can at least keep up with her whereabouts!

Jo Ann
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Old 03-17-2014, 06:09 PM   #13
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After doing a moderate amount of research, my sisters and I decide on getting my 89 year old mom, Lifeline with auto detection of falls a few years ago. It made a difference in one fall. Where Lifeline alerted the retirement home front desk and they had some up to her room very quickly. My mom had no memory of the fall and was really out of it when the Lifeline people talked to her. (She may have a had mini stroke).

Anything that isn't worn around the neck and isn't water proof is almost certain to be forgotten when an elder person is showering which is one of the most vulnerable times.
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Old 03-17-2014, 09:59 PM   #14
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This happened recently to a member of my church. She was an elderly lady in good physical and mental condition living alone in her own home. An intruder broke into her house. She pushed the button and the operator's voice frightened the intruder. The intruder left hurriedly.

Unfortunately, This is a high crime area. The lady realized that she was extremely lucky. The next intruder might blow her away. She immediately made arrangements to move into secure retirement housing.
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